The curtains have been lifted on a fossil discovery of international importance Thursday at the Cradle of Humankind World Heritage site in Maropeng, South Africa. Today the University of Witswatersrand unveiled the largest assemblage of hominin fossils ever found on the African continent.
This discovery has been kept a secret since the expedition began in November 2013, and according to the large group of international and local scientists involved in the project, it is going to force the world to rethink what it means to be human.
— Hugh Dudley (@hugh_dudley) September 10, 2015
National Geographic‘s Chief Science and Exploration Officer Terry Garcia, said discoveries of this nature are truly rare.
“Most people in this field spend a lifetime pursuing something like this and never achieve it.”
According to National Geographic, this new discovery was found in the Cradle of Humankind, around 50 kilometers from Johannesburg, and has now added to the mystery surrounding the complicated origins of humankind.
A new hominid species, Homo Naledi has been uncovered in the largest discovery of fossil remains ever found. While scientists have not put a date on the fossils, they feel that the species probably dates back some 2.5 to 2.8 million years.
The discovery has been unveiled, with far more information about the find in the video included at the end of this article, by the University of Witwatersrand in conjunction with National Geographic and the Department of Science and Technology/National Research Foundation.
The cave was discovered not far from the Sterkfontein Caves where “Mrs Ples” and “Little Foot,” other ancient human ancestors, were found in 1947 and 1994.
After much investigation of the mysteries of the cave, which is deep underground, with an opening only 18 centimeters into the final cave, it has been revealed that Homo Naledi, while not directly human, and with smaller brains and physical structure than us, purposefully buried their dead in the cave. This is the only possible explanation for the number of fossils found in one place, with no signs of habitation in the cave.
Speaking of their physical properties, the Homo Naledi had a brain around the size of an orange and stood approximately 1.5 meters tall. They are thought to have weighed around 45kgs.
The teeth, skull, feet and hands are similar to humans, but the shoulders were more ape-like. It is believed that Homo Naledi was able to use tools and while the hands are similar to human hands, the fingers are more curved, meaning that Homo Naledi was able to both utilize hand tools and also to climb trees.
— National Geographic (@NatGeo) September 10, 2015
With feet similar to humans, as well as long legs, the Homo Naledi was thought to be able to walk long distances. A brief description of the hominid is included in the video below.
However, the most important finding is that, while humankind thought they were alone in burying their dead, it turns out that Homo Naledi did this long before us.
The Homo Naledi fossils will be available for viewing by the general public from September 11 to October 11 this year. The research papers will be available to anyone worldwide who wishes to learn more about this ground-breaking discovery.
— eNCA (@eNCA) September 10, 2015
The recording of the livestream produced by eNCA is included below with the full presentation by Lee Berger, research professor in the Evolutionary Studies Institute at the University of the Witwatersrand and the rest of the team, as well as the unveiling of the Homo Naledi fossils and a Q&A session.
It should be noted that the video was recorded from a live-stream feed and the interesting part starts at 8:50. While the video is almost two hours in length, it is well worth the time to watch to the end.
[Image: Screengrab from YouTube video]