New Species of Human Found

Patti MayonnaiseSeptember 11, 2015800 Views
Photo Courtesy of University of the Witwatersrand Photo Courtesy of University of the Witwatersrand

A profound discovery has been made which even has implications that could alter your very own family tree. In collaboration with National Geographic, the University of Witwatersrand announced proudly an epic new tale of human heritage. With the discovery of an early human ancestor who sits perfectly within our own Homo genus, they presented to the public Homo naledi.
The fantastical fossil find originates from quite possibly the richest singular hominin assemblage uncovered in Africa thus far. Not only does the new species enlighten us on both the origins and diversity of man, it also illustrates a behavior which has long been thought to be unique only to humans. This could potentially even be a defining feature of our species. To purposely dispose of its dead in isolated chambers is unheard of in all other species.

Image via University of the Witwatersrand

Image via University of the Witwatersrand

A mere accident initially, H. naledi was first uncovered two years ago by amateur cavers during an exploration of a cave system commonly known as Rising Star. Rising Star can be found in South Africa’s world renowned Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site. During a 21 day exploration back in November of 2013, a team of 60 scientists and volunteer cavers uncovered so much more than what they had expected. Research leader Lee Berger revealed at a press event that they realized they were dealing with “something different and extraordinary.”

Image via University of the Witwatersrand

Image via University of the Witwatersrand

This “something different” quickly became several (meaning 15) hominin species. Representing more than 1,500 fossil elements which were found within a single chamber about 90 meters from the entrance, the scientists named the chamber naledi (meaning “star” in a South African language called Sesotho) as tribute. While 1,500 may seem like a great deal, the team fully believes that thousands upon thousands remain there untouched. “The floor is practically made of bones of these individuals,” according to Berger.

Photo Credit: Justine Alford

Photo Credit: Justine Alford

From infants to teens, young adults and the elderly, there was a vast array of all ages found here. While this species may have measured in at a relatively tall height for the time (the tallest discovered being approximately 5 feet), all possessed tiny heads. In fact, their brains were as small as that of the smallest australopith which was a group of extinct early hominins. Furthermore, the females’ brains were only slightly larger than a chimpanzee’s at about 27-34 cubic inches. With only the smallest discrepancies between the males and females, the sexes were similar in both brain size and body types. Individuals were believed to be closely related, possibly even multi-generational families.
Currently, we are not aware of just how old the fossils are or how long this particular species existed. Scientists estimate that it is 2 million years old, possibly even closer to 3 million and at the very least, a candidate for the base of our genus. For those wishing to see the fossils for themselves, the display can be found open to the public for a month in the Cradle of Humankind’s official visitor center, Maropeng.

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