Researchers Uncover New Fossil Remains of Recently Discovered Human Relative


A team of researchers has uncovered partial skeletons of Homo naledi, a recently discovered human relative—a finding that offers new insights into this species and human evolution generally.

"Neo" skull
A team of researchers has uncovered NEW partial skeletons of Homo naledi, a recently discovered human relative. Pictured is a Homo naledi skull, "Neo," which was recently found in the Lesedi Chamber of the Rising Star cave system, located outside of Johannesburg, South Africa. Credit: Wits University/John Hawks

A team of researchers has uncovered partial skeletons of Homo naledi, a recently discovered human relative—a finding that offers new insights into this species and human evolution generally.

The remains of at least two individuals were uncovered in a new chamber, the Lesedi Chamber, of the Rising Star cave system, located outside of Johannesburg, South Africa, in the Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site.

Homo naledi was first unearthed in a remote, nearly inaccessible Dinaledi chamber in 2013; the new fossils offer a broader scope of how this extinct human relative lived.

The discovery, led by researchers at South Africa’s University of the Witwatersrand and the University of Wisconsin-Madison, was aided by analyses from New York University anthropologists Shara Bailey and Scott Williams.

“Our skeletal and dental analysis of H. naledi vastly expands and extends our knowledge of the make-up and variation of this enigmatic new species,” observes Bailey, whose work examined the skeletons’ teeth.

“Associated partial skeletons of fossil hominins are extremely rare in the fossil record,” adds Williams, who led the team’s study of the vertebrae and ribs, noting that many other bones of the skeleton are preserved, including a complete clavicle and metacarpal and the most complete skull known for the species.

Bailey and Williams’ analyses appears in the journal eLife; a second article in the same journal reports that H. naledi dates to between 200,000 and 300,000 years old— significantly younger than it was speculated to be by some researchers when first discovered.

 

''Lucy'' and ''Neo''

A team of researchers has uncovered partial skeletons of Homo naledi, a recently discovered human relative. Left is the previously known "Lucy" skeleton of the East African species Australopithecus afarensis, which is an estimated 3.2 million years old; at right is the new Homo naledi skeleton believed to be about 250,000 years old. Credit: Wits University/John Hawks

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