Scientists in South Africa, discovered earlier this week, numerous amounts of fossils. Some were fossilized birds and rats, but the real discovery, was of a previously unknown hominin species called Homo naledi. The discovery was made in the Dinaledi Chamber of the Rising Star cave system, Cradle of Humankind, South Africa. A professor at the University of Witwatersrand, Lee Berger and his team, made the discovery. Paying homage to where the discovery was made, he chose to call the specimen of fossilized bones Homo naledi, ‘naledi’ means ‘star’ in Sotho (also called Sesotho), which is one of the languages spoken in South Africa. What made this find so intriguing, was where they were actually found. Before this discovery, modern humans were the first known species to bury their dead. But after being found deep in a cave, with an underground path, Berger and his team believe this was a burial place for Homo naledi, who had to even use fire to get through the cave. In total at least 15 individuals were unearthed, and include most of the bones in the skeleton. Based on this wide range of specimens from a single site, Berger describes Homo naledi as being similar in size and weight to a small modern human, with human-like hands and feet. Furthermore, while the skull had several unique features, it had a small brain case that was most similar in size to other early hominin species that lived between four million and two million years ago. Homo naledi’s ribcage, shoulders and pelvis also more closely resembled those of earlier hominin species than those of modern humans. More information still needs to be uncovered and there is sure to be challenges from the scientific community, but the fact that this was a huge discovery, is undeniable.
*All this information was found in the eLife research article.*