New Species of Human Ancestor Discovered in South Africa

By Lisa Raffensperger | September 10, 2015 8:28 am
Screenshot via Barcroft TV.

Screenshot via Barcroft TV.

A brand-new species of human ancestor has been identified from a wealth of bones in a cave in South Africa. The new species, Homo naledi, likely lived 2.5 to 2.8 million years ago, at the very root of the Homo lineage.

Human Ancestor

The bones were found behind a limestone wall in the Rising Star cave. In all, more than 1,550 fossil pieces representing at least 15 individuals have been recovered, and more are expected to lie in the soft dirt. That makes H. naledi one of the best-known fossil members of our lineage.

The name naledi means “star” in Sesotho, a local South African language — a nod to the cave where the species was found. The scientists announced the discovery in two papers published this week in the open-access journal eLife.

What Is Homo naledi?

The papers describe a species with long legs, feet that look very much like ours, but with apelike, curved hands and a small brain. According to the New York Times:

At a news conference on Wednesday, John Hawks of the University of Wisconsin, Madison, a senior author of the paper describing the new species, said it was “unlike any other species seen before,” noting that a small skull with a brain one-third the size of modern human braincases was perched atop a very slender body. An average H. naledi was about five feet tall and weighed almost 100 pounds, he said.


However, because the bones have not been dated yet, it’s hard to definitively place them in the human lineage. Speaking to the Guardian, some scientists expressed the need for caution:

“If they are as old as two million years, then they might be early South African versions of Homo erectus, a species already known from that region. If much more recent, they could be a relic species that persisted in isolation. In other words, they are more curiosities than game-changers for now,” said William Jungers, an anthropologist at Stony Brook School of Medicine in New York.

Remarkable Find

What’s more, it appears that H. naledi had some remarkable cultural practices. The placement of the bones in the cave chamber could be deliberate, according to the study authors. “We’ve come to the conclusion that this species of non-human hominid was deliberately disposing of its dead, taking the dangerous journey into this deep chamber to place its dead or drop its dead in a place inaccessible by any other — something prior to this we thought was maybe unique to humans,” said study author Lee Berger.

A remarkable relative indeed.

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  • The_Smashmaster

    Any indication of tool use? If so, how sophisticated?

    • Rudy

      Several flat blade screwdrivers found, but no Phillips head.

      • Dan Imler

        Phillips head screws/drivers were not invented until 1934 and not produced until 1935. At least in this Long Count. Had to be flint/flat drivers.

        • Bob Juniper

          Regular head flint drivers.

      • Bob Juniper

        They are not “flat blades” ,they are called Regular heads.

    • OWilson

      We can at least posit genitals :)

  • OWilson

    More good news is that that there are at least 15 individual skeletons.

    That would probably negate the possibility of chronic arthritis affecting the growth, bones and stature of just one individual.

    The book of humans continues to be written.

    • http://CareersReport.com Annette Sass

      Here is a method $how it is possible to make 65 bucks each hour… After searching for a job that suits me for six months , I started making cash over this internet site and now I possibly could not be more satisfied. After 3 months doing this my income is around five thousand dollarsper month -Check internet website i use on MY-DISQUS-PROFILE-PAGE

  • lindsncal

    But, but….where were adam and eve?

    • LaQuinta

      There were many Adams and many Eves…it would have been impossible and incestuous to have just one…but..but..you were being sarcastic ..right? Lol

      • lindsncal

        Oh, I see, there were many adams and eves and I forgot they lived about 800 years back then.
        Got it.

      • Barbie

        I think mitochondrial research establishes that women go back to the same “Eve” although I heard that a few years ago. Who knows what’s been established since?

        • Bob Juniper

          They tell us stuff for years and years,then all of a sudden they tell us it was wrong.

      • Bob Juniper

        The bible had a great deal of incest. Thats why so many of us are crazy. :) Oop’s ,the grammar police may get me for skipping the apostrophe! Darn,no one will understand this post without it.

  • LaQuinta

    Lol..ijs

  • CF

    Cave full of monkey bones.

    • Bob Juniper

      :)

    • Bob Juniper

      :)

  • Chet

    Why isn’t it Adam and Beth (A & B)? Why did they skip to E from A? Since there were only 2 (maybe in many places), how’d they all have the same names? Coincidence, I guess? No, there were only two and apparently one knew how to write, and read.

    • Nikki

      Are you suggesting that the first human language/alphabet consisted of our modern day English language? Just wondering where your logic is coming from as it pertains to your questions regarding the names of the first man and woman on earth.

    • theoldsgtmajor@aol.com

      Adami simply means man in one of the archaic languages.

    • Bob Juniper

      Why not Eve and Beth? Oh,we wouldn’t be here.

  • Rudy

    “The papers describe a species with long legs, feet that look very much like ours, but with apelike, curved hands and a small brain”

    Sounds like Miley Cyrus.

    • http://www.mazepath.com/uncleal/qz4.htm Uncle Al

      “Compton-adjacent” to humanity.

    • NavyBlue1962

      Or Obama.

    • Bob Juniper

      That should be a very small, under utilized brain like ours.

  • Bob Juniper

    Evolution is all B.S. All theory and manipulation of your simple minds. Study the human body. It did not evolve from some other animal,that’s
    plain stupid,it way to complex. Don’t you wonder why “they” start teaching
    you about dinosaurs at two year old on TV? Its a brain wash. Think!

    • http://www.mazepath.com/uncleal/qz4.htm Uncle Al

      Fred Flintstone said it, I heard it, that’s it.”

    • judyishtunes

      Mr. Juniper, I am amazed that you do not give credibility to
      evolution. Everything we see in our world, solar system and universe evolves. You, yourself, are a current rendition of stardust at this place and time in the universe. We have been studying how everything currently existing on earth has changed from earlier versions since Darwin published his tome.
      What is your version?

      • Bob Juniper

        My version is to much to type and it use to be evolution until I broke out of the brain wash. I am 57 and I had 50 years of brain wash to overcome. Its not easy. But evolution is out there with Pluto.

        • NavyBlue1962

          Boy,have you got it right. Evolutionists are of the same ilk as the Jonestown Kool-Aid drinkers.

      • OWilson

        Ah, the old Sagan high school myth. Not true then and not true now.

        Mr Juniper is a self aware, rational thinking machine, able to self examine and question his place in the universe.

        Star dust don’t do that.

        Never did!

        • judyishtunes

          It is fine to ponder the root and meaning of consciousness and to question everything we think we know. Dismissing evolution without
          attempting to provide empirical evidence of an alternative theory of how you and I and everything we sense came to be is also questionable. I don’t accept magical thinking.

          • OWilson

            Now where in “heaven” did I ever dismiss evolution?

            Please don’t let my old science teacher know!
            :)

          • Bob Juniper

            Evolution if it was real is not magical ??

          • judyishtunes

            I think there are events and objects that are not understood as yet, but with further study can be explained.

            Magic can be defined as: the power of apparently influencing the course of events by
            using mysterious {difficult or impossible to understand, explain, or identify} or supernatural {attributed to some force beyond scientific understanding or the laws of nature} forces.

            Evolution can be defined as: the theory {a well-substantiated explanation of some aspect of the natural world, based on a body of facts that have been repeatedly confirmed through
            observation and experiment: such fact- supported theories are not”guesses” but reliable accounts of the real world} that the various kinds of existing animals and plants have come from kinds that existed in the past.

          • OWilson

            There’s a difference between star dust or a rock, and a fine old Swiss watch maker or an Einstein.

            (A “magical” difference, for want of a better word)

            Actually the correct word would be “miracle”, if the odds against such an existence or event is infinitely large. :)

            Until we bump into another Einstein on another planet, it will continue to be a “miracle”.

          • Bob Juniper

            Ok, but I’m sticking to my theory.

          • judyishtunes

            Which is what?

          • Bob Juniper

            Its in the thread .

    • dwayne knoll

      Is not bible school brainwashing?
      The study of the koran is a brainwash as well.
      The question is when will you examine the facts before accepting a fairy tale as gospel?

      • Bob Juniper

        Who said I believed in the bibles version? And screw the Koran.

        • OWilson

          So, what’s your line?
          The accepted theory of evolution does nothing to substantiate, or invalidate the postulation of intelligent design.

          • Bob Juniper

            Intelligent design is obviously the case,by engineers. Now hold on to your hat. I believe we are high tech robots made of building materials we don’t understand yet. We are self replicating machines with a mission here on earth, designed with perhaps an 80 year live span, or our sun destroys the materials we are made from and the engineers have not yet found a solution. A lot of information
            we “discover” has been designed to find its way into ours hands
            so we do not discover our real source of creation. Which would in fact be a God like being, at least in our eyes. (no live span engineered in, supreme intelligence,etc.) I don’t know what our mission here is but we are still very primitive . Still killing one another with wars etc. It could simply be that we are a seventh grade alien students science project. But it is not evolution standing on its own merits.

          • Cheryl Foster

            I agree with your thoughts. I believe we are formed of pixels of some sort like a computer game. Our God is someone or something with a higher intellect than ours. Yes, I believe it’s all a game of some sort. And religion is just some man-made bullshit.

          • OWilson

            When you live in a primitive society, and depend on annual floods, rain and sun to grow your food and give you light and warmth, the sea to give you fish.

            The moon to give you light at night (but not too much to keep you awake), those are as much gods to you as anything you could make up.

            They certainly delivered more than conventional religion. Conventional religions only give hope.

          • Bob Juniper

            Agreed. I very much like your way of thinking.

          • Bob Juniper

            Religion serves a purpose for those who need to hold on to something. Our God is inside us. Prayer works,I have experienced it. We can think our prayers right to our God inside ourselves. We are one with it. This somehow ties into the machine that we are. It may transmit somehow to a source
            that has some control of our reality. Not saying I have any real answers but I am strong on common sense and I know its not the brown suit or the blue suit. So I am not buying one of those suits.( Biblical version or evolution)

          • OWilson

            Your point about how convenient it is for us to “discover” is well taken.

            This has all been done before, but the odds of us and our world existing at just the right location in the galaxy, having the sun and moon the exact same apparent size to create perfect eclipses to enable study, different planets of varied masses orbiting at different velocities to give us laws of motion, are infinite, or infinitesimal. The “Goldilocks” phenomena, writ large.

            If it takes a lot of intelligence to create our machines, computers, fine Swiss watches, is it probable that our existence, organic in nature and infinitely more complex than our machines, can make a case for some higher intelligence than ourselves?

            (Captain of spaceship, on observing a floating object, “Say, isn’t that a far more advanced computer than we have, made from synthetic materials we’ve never seen?”

            “Relax Captain, it’s just a random collection of atoms, no need to go looking for the folks who made it”.)

          • Bob Juniper

            :)

      • Sherrill Duane Slaughter

        Bible school is voluntary, as is the study of the Koran. Is evolution taught in schools? Then it is not voluntary! Why don’t you question the theory of evolution?

      • OWilson

        If enough people believe it, it is good enough for me.

        The world is 97% religious and that includes a lot of people smarter than you and me.

        Unless you are stupid enough to believe you are smarter than 97% of the world, go with the “consensus”, it can’t possibly be wrong! :) Don’t be a denier.

        (and you’ll have lots of Facebook friends)

        There really are archangels, holy spirits and a couple guys who talk to God himself, daily.

    • Waitaminute

      Obviously you recognize that simple English grammar and punctuation are equally deleterious to the thought process. Bully for you!

      • Bob Juniper

        :) Don’t wanna blame my mom, but she was right off the boat German. I picked up lots of bad habits. I have always felt being understood is far better than spelling it right. And punctuation is mostly fluff.

        • Rodney Wade Burke

          “I picked up lots of bad habits.”
          Poor thing, too bad you didn’t pick up a good education.

          • Bob Juniper

            You are likely a well educated brainwashed liberal.

    • John Okerblom

      I agree Bob. I also believe the internet and smart phones did not evolve, they are way to complex. Can you believe those crazy scientists actually want us to believe in logic, facts, and reality?

      • Bob Juniper

        It only seems like logic when you have heard it since two years old.

  • theoldsgtmajor@aol.com

    Could the bones have been gathered in that cave by some scavenger animal? That would correspond to the small passageway in the discovered site.

    • OWilson

      Good point, but 15 skeletons?

      • Bob Juniper

        Serial caveman killer?

      • theoldsgtmajor@aol.com

        A well fed scavenger animal?

  • NavyBlue1962

    I didn’t know Obama had any kin in South Africa. I thought they were all up around the Kenya area.

  • OWilson

    To the moderator.

    I must protest that the posters below are having far too much fun speculating on the meaning of all these findings!

    Whatever happened to serious discourse?

    We are, after all. talking about the origins of our species, and not Lady Ga Ga (who happens to open at Detroit’s Olympia October 3 to 9th, 2015)

    • Bob Juniper

      Wish I could go to the show. Love GaGa. Shes fun.

      • Mike Richardson

        Wilson seems to like her, too. She comes up in a lot of his posts. :)

  • Sherrill Duane Slaughter

    It’s amazing how our illustrious scientists figured out the color of its skin and how much facial hair was there, since they have no way of knowing! Oh, wait- just stuff it into the pre-conceived notion of evolution and make your reconstruction support your theory! Got it!

    • Bob Juniper

      :)

  • Sherrill Duane Slaughter

    This is all very simple: I’d much rather die believing there is a God, and find out I was wrong than vice-versa!

    • Bob Juniper

      Don’t think it works that way.

  • HiddenWays

    Paleontologists please help: How does a creature that has a skull that
    does not extend above the brow ridges develop a prominent forehead in the reconstruction?

    • OWilson

      And what product was he using to keep such a ripped, buff, smooth torso?

    • Rodney Wade Burke

      The skull in the top photo is resting on the bottom of the occiput, placing it in a tilted / looking up orientation.
      The reconstruction shows it on a torso and looking forward, so the forehead is not above the brow line in that perspective.

      • Bob Juniper

        Oh good God,really??

        • Rodney Wade Burke

          Is that the best you can do Bob? Maybe you could actually contribute to the conversation with something constructive.
          Oh never mind, I’ve yet to see anything constructive from you.
          Bob, don’t ever expect me to respond to you again unless you can actually say something intelligent.

          • Bob Juniper

            Promise ?

          • Bob Juniper

            Rodney ,you know you like me. Everyone does eventually. Here’s my question to you. Is a big degree from some expensive school really of much value if you have just been taught what they want and need you to believe, and the history that the winners have written, and the propaganda that you have uploaded so you can become a viable economic unit in the machine? I like you too, but you really need to open your mind. (hows the grammar and punctuation?)

          • Rodney Wade Burke

            “Rodney ,you know you like me.”

            Actually, NO, I don’t like you.

            Why? Because you behave like a troll, simply commenting to people using insults and pejoratives. You don’t engage people with the intent of having intelligent dialogue.
            And that makes me have contempt for you.

            You make liberal use of logical fallacies and you don’t actually provide a counter argument.

            It seems the best you can do is what you did in your recent comment to me:

            “Is a big degree from some expensive school really of much value if you have just been taught what they want and need you to believe……….”

            This single sentence of yours is just a series of logical fallacies e.g. a long winded ad hominem and an example of begging the question and a lot of assumptions.
            It also indicates you have a very skewed understanding of advanced education.

            I have a 16 year old son. I try very hard not to teach him WHAT to think, I try to teach him HOW to think and allow him to come to his own conclusions. I hold myself to the same standard of skepticism.

            I have not seen a single comment from you where you actually attempt to argue the facts of the case.
            I have not seen any evidence that you can think clearly and logically about things, indicated by your heavy use of logical fallacies.

            What I do see is someone who is extremely arrogant and certain of what he believes.

            So no, I don’t like those kind of people.

            Have a nice day, but please don’t send me another comment and I’ll return the same favor to you.

          • Bob Juniper

            I will take my way over yours any day. That must have been an intelligent comment or you would not have replied,right? Deal on the no more comments either way.

  • Silverio Suárez McAuliffe

    It seems that they are as the most of the ´political leaders of our times. So instead of the h.naledi could well be known as h.political

  • Chet

    I was being Facetious. I’m not suggesting anything. Please lighten up.

  • Robert Caldwell

    Aliens created humans. But who created the aliens? Why aliens created those aliens. But who created those aliens? Why aliens created them. Thus it goes backward forever.

    • OWilson

      Same with the “life started on Mars” and “comet seeding” junk.

      Adds nothing to the enigma.

  • Jhowe1

    A truly interesting find, the concept of a burial ritual in a primitive ancestor is remarkable, if evidence supports the practice. considering neanderthals, a more modern hominid, have not shown any concept of burial from fossils discovered.
    Another piece of the hominid family tree, very exciting for an Archeology student, to find so many skeletons, of such a distant ancestor, and mostly intact ones at that.
    Personally I think H.naledi will prove closer to H.erectus, than early humans

  • Jhowe1

    A truly interesting find, the concept of a burial ritual in a primitive ancestor is remarkable, if evidence supports the practice. considering neanderthals, a more modern hominid, have not shown any concept of burial from fossils discovered.
    Another piece of the hominid family tree, very exciting for an Archeology student, to find so many skeletons, of such a distant ancestor, and mostly intact ones at that.
    Personally I think H.naledi will prove closer to H.erectus, than early human

  • Courtney

    I love this that’s the biggest human question I think that’s out there where did we come from why are we here!

    Just gotta keep putting the pieces together! Humans are the species with amnesia!

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