Exciting news today in the genus Homo: a new hominin species, dubbed Homo naledi has been discovered in South Africa! A team led by Lee Berger recently retrieved the largest and most complete assemblage of hominin bones ever found in Africa. The bones were discovered in a part of the World Heritage site called “The Cradle of Mankind,” the same system where A. africanus was first discovered.
The nearly 1700 bones, from around 15 individuals of various ages and genders, represent a brand new species with qualities that do not match any other members of the genus. While there have been problems dating the fossils, the researchers currently believe the bones to be between 2-3 million years old.
The most interesting aspect of this find, to me, is that based on their location within the caves, these remains were placed there intentionally. If the researcher’s guesses regarding date turn out to be true, this might be one of the earliest known “burials” of any kind in the human lineage.
This is bloody awesome science–adding to our knowledge of the human lineage is important in order to understand how we evolved. Here’s a really cool image that shows where naledi fits on our family tree:
If you want to check out more images, plus some cool videos and other resources about this find, check here.