The discovery of the bones of previously unknown species deep in the cave raises questions about the origin of ritual burials, self-awareness. In a cave 100 yards below ground near Johannesburg, South African scientists discovered vast remnants of what they call a previously unknown human species.
Researchers from South Africa discovered extensive remains of previously unknown humanoid species in the underground nest, highlighting the early emergence of mankind and raising questions about the origin of ritual burial and self-consciousness, scientists said on Thursday.
Until now, researchers have extracted 1,550 bone fragments belonging to about 15 individuals, which is probably the largest single discovery of early human remains in Africa. They said that even thousands of bone fragments from bodies superimposed on each other are still in the inner chamber of the Rising Star cave 30 miles from Johannesburg.
This unprecedented discovery will rewrite our history
They are pretty cool and quite strange, said Rick Potts, director of the Human Origins program at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, which was not involved in the project.
But no one knows how many years these remains will remain. The usual methods of dating have not yet worked.
We understand that we are looking at something extraordinary, said Lee R. Berger, a paleoanthropologist from the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, who led an international team of 60 scientists and speleologists. Dr. Berger and his colleagues announced the opening of Homo naledi, as they called the new species, at a press conference on Thursday. Naledi means a star in Sesotho, a local South African language.
They published their findings in the online magazine eLife and National Geographic, which helped fund the project.
Scientists have discovered extensive remains of previously unknown humanoid species in an underground chest
Part of the complex skeleton of Homo naledi, surrounded by some of the hundreds of other fossil elements exhibited in Magalisburg, South Africa, on Thursday; Scientists say that they
An image from the University of Witwatersrand shows the skeleton of Homo naledi at the Institute for Evolutionary Studies at the University of Witwatersrand, South Africa. JOHN HOUX / WITS / AFP / GETTY IMAGES UNIVERSITY
These fossils are among almost 1,700 bones and teeth extracted from an almost inaccessible cave near Johannesburg. The scientist believes that the fossil was created by Homo Naledi, who repeatedly singled out the bodies of his dead satellites in a cave. JOHN HOUX / AGENT FRANCE-PRESS / HETTI IMAGES
The fossils of a newly discovered ancient species called Homo naledi in honor of the rising star of the cave where the species was found; Naledi means a star in the South African language Sesotho.SIPHIWE SIBEKO / REUTERS
Thursday. Visitors inspect the skeleton Homo naledi during the opening of the discovery. Homo naledi is a combination of australopitic and humanlike features, which until now were completely unknown to science, say the researchers. STEPHAN HEUNIS / AGENS FRANCE-PRESS / GETTI IMAGES
Professor Lee Berger kisses the replica of the skull of Homo naledi on Thursday in southern Africa. STEFAN HEUNIS / AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE / GETTY IMAGES
A photo from Whits University shows the lower jaw of a new relative. WITS UNIVERSITY / EUROPEAN REPRESENTATIVE OFFICE
Left: Vice President of the Republic of South Africa, Cryril Ramaphosa, holds a skull of a new species along with Professor Lee Berger of the University of Witwatersrand at a press conference on Thursday in Johannesburg. THAPELO MOREBUDI / GCIS / EUROPEAN REPRESENTATIVE OFFICE
The combined skeleton Homo naledi, surrounded by some of the hundreds of other fossil elements, is exhibited in Magaliesburg, South Africa, Thursday THEMBA HADEBE / ASSOCIATED PRESS
Parts of the homo Naledi skeleton, stored in the Wits Church at the Institute for Evolutionary Studies of the University of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa JOHN HAWKS / WITS UNIVERSITY / AFP / GETTY IMAGES
Professor Lee Bürger at the entrance to the cave where the fossil remains of Homo Namledi were found, where BRETT ELOFF / UITS UNIVERSITY / EUROPEAN REPRESENTATIVE
Part of the complex skeleton of Homo naledi, surrounded by some of the hundreds of other fossil elements exhibited in Magalisburg, South Africa, on Thursday; Scientists say they discovered a new member of the genealogical tree of humans discovered by a huge number of bones in the scarcely accessible, dark cave cave in South Africa, which showed an amazing combination of human and more primitive characteristics. THEMBA HADEBE / Associated Press
Increasing the mystery, no one knows how these creatures found their way through the boundless labyrinth of narrow cracks in the depth of the cave 100 yards below the ground. Scientists have found the bones of men, women, children and babies scattered across the floor of the cave or embedded in its soft clay. There is no indication that they were dragged by predators washed by floods or brought into some kind of fatal incident. In fact, there is no evidence that any other form of life has ever reached the chamber.
We can exclude simple explanations, said John Hawkes, a paleoanthropologist at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, a senior member of the project. What we end up with is that they must have put the bodies in there.
If so, it increases the likelihood that these creatures have shown respect for their dead by providing the remains of ritual healing and burial, which is usually considered a sign of self-awareness, unique to the people and closest relatives of mankind, the Neanderthals.
It’s a different kind, not a human body that seems to practice behavior that until then people have considered not only unique to us, but may have identified us: a ritualized order of our dead, said Dr. Berger.
Several independent experts on the origin of man said that there is no direct evidence to support this hypothesis. I do not think Sherlock Holmes would have concluded that this was a deliberate burial, said Bernard Wood, a paleoanthropologist at the George Washington University. If this were so, then everything that we think we know about the evolution of human knowledge is in the toilet.
The system of caves of the South Rising Star, where the bones were found, is located near the World Heritage site, called the Cradle of Mankind, where many fossils of human predecessors were found. This has long been a popular place for amateur speleologists, some of whom may have trampled the bones.
Homo naledi fossils are depicted in the bone marrow of Wits at the Institute for Evolutionary Research of the University of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa. PHOTO: JOHN HOUX / UNIVERSITY WISCONSIN-MADISSON
Virtual reconstruction of the endocast of a larger composite skull of DH1 and DH2 is covered with ectokranial surfaces.
The bucco-speaking width of the first maxillary molar is shown here compared to the endocranial volume for many species of hominins. Naledioccupies position with a relatively small molar size (comparable to laterHomo) and a relatively small volume of the endocast (comparable to australopit). The range of variation within the Dinaldi sample is also rather small, in particular compared to a wide range of changes within H. Erectus sensu lato. Vertical lines represent the range of endocastal volume estimates known for each taxon; Each vertical line crosses a horizontal line representing the diameter of M1BL on average for each taxon. Here, instead of data points, ranges are illustrated, since the ranges of the endocranial volume in several species are established by samples that do not retain the first maxillary molars.
The maximum length of the tibia for U.W. 101-484 compared with other almost complete samples of the hominin tibia. The australopithecines afarensis are represented by AL 288-1 and KSD-VP-1/1 (Haile-Selassie et al., 2010), Homo erectus represented by D3901 from Dmanisi and KNM-WT 15000, Homo habilisby OH 35, Homo floresiensisby LB1 and LB8 (Brown Et al., 2004; Morwood et al., 2005). Chimpanzees and modern European ancestors from the Cleveland Museum of Natural History (Lee, 2001); Andaman Islanders fromStock (2013). Vertical lines represent sample ranges; Bars represent 1 standard deviation.
Only in 2013, scientists learned about the fossil stone in the underground labyrinth.
In life, these creatures were leggy, light and flexible, growing just above five feet, scientists concluded. They had surprisingly modern arms and legs, but a primitive flattened pelvis and a tiny brain, hardly inferior to a third of modern man. In general, they seemed to be designed to walk on a modern gait and, with unusually long curved fingers, may be adapted for rock climbing as well, the scientists said.
We had a combination of traits that we have never seen with any species, “said Carrowen Van Sikle, a biological anthropologist at the University of Wisconsin who helped analyze the bones. This is so strange.
Most likely, the bones do not belong to the direct human genus, but represent one of the early experiments of nature in human form, experts say.
Some have argued that fossils belong to a new species. Jeffrey Schwartz, a paleo-anatomist at the University of Pittsburgh, said that the remains are probably a mixture of early human species, including the primordial species Homo erectus, which is known for more than a century.
The new species name does not lend itself to adequate confirmation for the fossil remains of the Rising Star, says Tim D. White, an anthropologist at the University of California at Berkeley.
Ian Tattersall, a paleoanthropologist from the American Museum of Natural History in New York, who was not part of the research group, called it an amazing collection of fossils that paleontologists should keep in mind for a long time.