Homo Naledi – Extinct Homonin Species
“Homo naledi is a previously-unknown species of extinct homonin discovered within the Dinaledi Chamber of the Rising Star cave system, Cradle of Humankind, South Africa. The species is characterised by body mass and stature similar to small-bodied human populations but a small endocranial volume similar to australopiths.” In this way the summary of the academic paper on the discovery and study of Homo naledi in the journal eLife starts.
On Thursday, 10 September 2015, details of the fossil find of homo naledi was unveiled at Maropeng. This significant fossil find has been greeted with excitement around the world and many have said that the find will make us question what it is to be human. Lee Berger of WITS University stated that “[u]ntil this moment in history, we thought that the idea of ritualised behaviours directed towards the dead, things like burial or like secreting your dead into deep chambers, was utterly unique to homo sapiens.”.
The team has already unearthed parts of 15 individuals, but the researchers believes that there is still a treasure trove of fossils awaiting discovery in the Rising Star cave system and the Dinaledi Chamber. Homo naledi is further described as having “humanlike manipulatory adaptations of the hand and wrist” as well as “a humanlike foot and lower limb”. These aspects, however, are “contrasted in the postcrania with a more primitive or australopith-like trunk, shoulder, pelvis and proximal femur”. Because these aspects are represented in at least the already discovered individuals, this find represents the “largest assemblage of a single species of homonin yet discovered in Africa”.
This amazing discovery has once again put South Africa – and the Cradle of Humankind – on the map. All eyes will be on our country and the talented team of professionals slowly unearthing our past and bringing it to life.