For many years, humans have strived to learn more about our ancient ancestors and their history. Many important discoveries have been made, with archaeologists uncovering fossils of old species of humankind. A new species of human ancestor, Homo naledi, is the latest find, a discovery that will surely captivate many.
The Discovery of Homo Naledi
On September 10th, 2015, a group of researchers, including Professor Lee Berger, discovered a new species of Homo that they deemed Homo naledi. It is estimated to be anywhere between two and three million years old. It was uncovered in the Rising Star Cave System in South Africa where more than 1,500 bones were found in a remote chamber.
The Uniqueness of Homo Naledi
Homo naledi has a unique combination of features that makes it both human-like and primitive. The Homo naledi fossil contains a combination of human and primitive aspects, indicating the potential for species with a mosaic of anatomical characteristics that is rare for the fossils of other early Homo species.
The Brain and Body of Homo Naledi
The brain of Homo naledi was much smaller than that of modern humans, with an estimated average volume of about 550 cubic centimeters — about the size of an orange — suggesting an early species in the emergence of Homo sapiens.
Structurally, the body of Homo naledi was also quite small, only measuring around 150 centimeters (59 inches) tall. The arms and legs of the species were unusually long. Its ribcage is believed to be like that of a gorilla, while its legs are more similar to those of homo sapiens.
Comparisons with Other Human Ancestors
Homo naledi is the most recently discovered species of human ancestor, and is estimated to have existed between two and three million years ago. It shares a number of physical features with other early hominins — such as Australopithecus sediba, Kenyanthropus platyops, and Paranthropus robustus — making it impossible to determine its exact place in the complex hominin family tree.
Unique Characteristics and Habits
Researchers have also identified some unique characteristics and habits associated with Homo naledi. It was found that this species was likely able to climb and traverse rough terrain, suggesting that the species was adapted to the African environment.
In addition, Homo naledi was likely far more intelligent than other hominins of its time. It is believed that Homo naledi was able to use tools, modify their environment, and had a strong sense of community, evidenced by the discovery of a large number of Homo naledi bones situated in one chamber. Furthermore, the individuals of this species had a ritualistic burial process, likely indicative of a religious sentiment and practices.
Reactions to the Discovery
The discovery of Homo naledi has left many scientists in awe. It has been deemed “one of the greatest fossil discoveries of the past half-century” by some and has illuminated new details on the evolution of our ancient ancestors.
Each new species and generation of Homo that is discovered expands our knowledge of our evolutionary timeline. Homo naledi marks yet another chapter in our efforts to further understand the ancient history of Homo sapiens.
The discovery of Homo naledi is one of the most notable finds in human history. It is a remarkable revelation that promises to improve our understanding of our evolutionary past and of the development of Homo sapiens. As researchers and archaeologists continue their efforts, the discoveries are sure to add to our existing body of knowledge and will help to further illustrate the development of human history.