New haul of Homo naledi bones molts surprising light on human progression

Early human relative lived at same time as Homo sapiens and could have done stone implements, scientists suggest

When fossil hunters unveiled the remaining a mysterious and archaic new species of human met deep inside a cave in South Africa two years ago, the scientific community was stunned. Since then, bodies of the long-lost own family members have piled up.

In work published on Tuesday in the magazine eLife, the team reveals how high-pitched that pile has already become. They now have the remainders of at the least 18 Homo naledi , as the species is identified. The most recent drag of bones, found in a cave assembly 100 metres from the first, includes a almost complete adult skull.

The Neo skull, a almost complete adult Homo naledi skull found in the Lesedi Chamber. Photograph: John Hawks/ Wits University

Tests on information materials known the bones to be between 335,000 and 236,000 years old, moving them far younger than many scientists had expected. It means that this species of primitive hominid was actually around at the same time as Homo sapiens , said Lee Berger, the lead scientist at the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg.

The bones, outstandingly, testify few clues of disease or stress from poor growth, is recommended that Homo naledi may have been the dominant species in the area at the time. They are the healthiest dead occasions youll ever hear, said Berger.

Homo naledi digested about 150 cm tall fully grown and weighed about 45 kg. But it is extraordinary for its motley of ancient and modern boasts. It has a small intelligence and curved thumbs that are well-adapted for climbing, but the wrists, hands, legs and hoofs are more like those found on Neanderthals or modern humans. If the dating is accurate, Homo naledi may have emerged in Africa about two million years ago but held on to some of its more ancient peculiarities even as modern humen evolved.

The Neo skeleton. Homo naledi put about 150 cm tall fully grown and weighed about 45 kg. Photograph: John Hawks/ Wits University

This is astonishingly young for a species that still exposes primitive attributes found in fogies about two million years old, said Chris Stringer at the Natural History Museum in London, who was not involved in the research.

The age of the bones, and their finding in the Rising Star cave organisation on the edge of the Cradle of Humankind World Heritage site near Johannesburg, has led Berger to speculate that some ancient stone tools found in countries of the region might have wrongly been attributed to Homo sapiens . Instead, they might be the work of Homo naledi , he said.

No stone tools have ever been noticed with Homo naledi bones, but Stringer does not rule in the opportunities that the species may have represented them. It seems highly likely that its handiwork is present in the archaeological preserve of southern Africa, but currently unattributed, he said.

Another question raised by the remains is how they got to their final resting place. Berger does not is argued that the men got there by accident. I consider the detection of the second largest chamber adds to the idea that Homo naledi purposely disposed of its dead in the deep underground assemblies in the Rising Star cave method, he said. I cant ascertain any other room, other than them going into these remote chambers themselves and accompanying figures in. To do that, he suspects, they were also able to control fire.

Schematic of the Rising Star cave organisation. Instance: Marina Elliott/ Wits University

Others are not so confident. Stringer said he and many other experts disbelieved that Homo naledi , with a psyche the size of a gorilla, had been able to such complex practice. Perhaps further expedition will reveal other, closer, enterings or sinkholes who the hell is temporarily open, through which the remains could have been introduced by accidental or natural action? he said.

According to Jessica Thompson, a palaeolithic archaeologist at Emory University in Atlanta, what the bones do make clear is that human evolution was not the straightforward, linear advance from one species to another that it is often made out to have been. It doesnt is the beginning with something that looks like a monkey, and the something that looks like an ape, and then something that looks like a human, and then all of the abrupt youve get people, she said. Its much more complicated than that.

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