New secrets were unveiled about our own origin today at the Cradle of Humankind in Maropeng as the fossil discovery of Homo Naledi was revealed to the public. The discovery was first made in October 2013 during the Rising Star Expedition, a relatively short excavation where a team of “underground astronauts” recovered the extensive collection of 1550 hominin specimens. Representing at least 15 individuals with most skeletal elements repeated multiple times, this is the largest assemblage of fossil human relatives ever discovered on the African continent.
Homo Naledi (naledi meaning star in SeSotho) is the new species in our family tree. Although scientists can`t confirm the exact age of these fossils, the next task will be to date the remains for more information. They are described as being similar in weight and size of a small modern human; with their teeth, feet and hands being the most human-like. The skull is relatively small and the brain is only a 3rd of the size of our brains today.
Inside Dinaledi (chamber of stars) only hominin fossils were found. There was no evidence of fighting, killing or cannibalism inside. There was also no evidence of bite-marks that would suggest they were dragged inside by carnivores. There was no evidence of any catastrophe or that they could have been washed in by water. Furthermore, there was no sign that they lived inside the cave.
So what exactly does this mean, how did they get there and why?
“This is the first time in all of history that human beings have encountered a non-human species that deliberately disposes of its dead,” Professor Lee Berger.
The historic fossils will be on public display for one month from 11 September till 11 October 2015 at Maropeng.