A new haul of bones sheds sur­pris­ing light on hu­man evo­lu­tion

Timeless Travels Magazine - - ARCHAEOLOGICAL NEWS -

Prob­ing deeper into the South African cave sys­tem known as Ris­ing Star, a sub­ter­ranean maze that last year yielded the largest cache of ho­minin fos­sils known to sci­ence, an in­ter­na­tional team of re­searchers has dis­cov­ered an­other cham­ber with more re­mains of a new­found hu­man rel­a­tive: Homo naledi.

The dis­cov­ery, an­nounced with the pub­li­ca­tion of a se­ries of pa­pers in the jour­nal eLife, helps round out the pic­ture of a crea­ture that sci­en­tists now know shared the land­scape with modern hu­mans - and prob­a­bly other ho­minin species - be­tween 226,000 and 335,000 years ago. The dis­cov­ery of the new fos­sils in­clude the re­mains of at least three ju­ve­nile and adult spec­i­mens in­clud­ing a ‘won­der­fully com­plete skull’, says Uni­ver­sity of Wis­con­sin-Madi­son an­thro­pol­o­gist John Hawks.

The new cham­ber, dubbed the Lesedi Cham­ber, is nearly 100 metres from the Di­naledi Cham­ber where the first Homo

naledi fos­sils rep­re­sent­ing at least 15 in­di­vid­u­als of var­i­ous ages were found. The new cham­ber is also ex­ceed­ingly dif­fi­cult to ac­cess, re­quir­ing those ex­ca­vat­ing the fos­sils to crawl, climb and squeeze their way in pitch dark to the fos­sil cache.

The skele­ton of the third in­di­vid­ual, is re­mark­ably com­plete. The skull has been painstak­ingly re­con­structed, pro­vid­ing a much more com­plete por­trait of Homo naledi. “We fi­nally get a look at the face of Homo naledi,” notes Peter Sch­mid, of Wits and the Uni­ver­sity of Zurich, who spent hun­dreds of hours painstak­ingly re­con­struct­ing the frag­ile bones.

‘Neo’, skull of Homo naledi from the Lesedi Cham­ber

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