By Jamie Rivera Published 09/10/2015 08:11:00 | Views: 1992
Our early ancestors. Pictured, a reconstruction of Homo naledi's head by paleoartist John Gurche, who spent some 700 hours recreating the head from bone scans. Picture: Mark Thiessen/National Geographic. Source: AP
 

THE fossilised bones of 15 bodies from a previously unknown human species have been discovered in a cave in South Africa, in what scientists hailed as a breakthrough in evolution research.

About 1,500 fossils were found deep in a cave system outside Johannesburg, hidden in a deep underground chamber only accessible via several steep climbs and rock canvasses.

Experts are uncertain how the “Homo naledi” remains got there, or even how old they are, but the discovery could shed fresh light on the origin of the mankind.

The bones were first discovered in 2013 by Witwatersrand University scientists and volunteer cavers in the Cradle of Humankind, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, 50 kilometres northwest of Johannesburg.

“I am pleased to introduce you to a new species of human ancestor,” Lee Berger, research professor at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, told reporters at the site.

 

 

 

The bones of Homo Naledi are among nearly 1,700 bones and teeth retrieved from a nearly inaccessible cave near Johannesburg. Scientists believe the early humans placed their dead companions in the cave. Picture: WITS UNIVERSITY/JOHN HAWKS. Source: AFP

 

 

One of the skulls found in the cave. Picture: WITS UNIVERSITY/ BRETT ELOFF.

One of the skulls found in the cave. Picture: WITS UNIVERSITY/ BRETT ELOFF. Source: AFP

Ancient human remains have been found in the area since excavations begun in the 1920s.

“The discovery of so many fossils belonging to at least 15 individuals is remarkable,” said Professor Chris Stringer, from the Natural History Museum in London, one of the lead analysts on the discovery.

The find highlighted “the complexity of the human family tree and the need for further research to understand the history and ultimate origins of our species,” Stringer added.

“The deep cave location where the bones were found suggests that they may have been deposited there by other humans, indicating surprisingly complex behaviour for a ‘primitive’ human species.”

Scientists say the hands, wrists and feet of the bodies were similar to modern humans, but the brain size and upper body were much more like the earliest humans.

“H. naledi had a tiny brain, about the size of an average orange, perched atop a very slender body,” said John Hawks, of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, a senior author on the academic paper detailing the new species.

Homo naledi stood approximately 1.5 metres (about 5 feet) tall and weighed about 45 kilogrammes (almost 100 pounds).

The first expedition to the cave chamber in 2013 lasted for 21 days and involved more than 60 specialist cavers and scientists working in dangerous underground conditions.

The skeleton found. Picture: UNIVERSITY OF WINSCONSIN-MADISON/JOHN HAWKS

The skeleton found. Picture: UNIVERSITY OF WINSCONSIN-MADISON/JOHN HAWKS Source: AFP

 

A mandible occlusal of Homo Naledi. Picture: WITS UNIVERSITY/JOHN HAWKS

A mandible occlusal of Homo Naledi. Picture: WITS UNIVERSITY/JOHN HAWKS Source: AFP

 
 
 
 
By Jamie Rivera 09/10/2015 08:11:00
 
 

Subscribe to comments feed Comments (0)

 
total: | displaying:
 

Post your comment. Registration not required

 
  • Bold
  • Italic
  • Underline
  • Quote

Please enter the code you see in the image:

Captcha