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Homo naledi: 1,500 Fossils Revolutionize Human Family Tree

A composite skeleton of H. naledi is surrounded by some of the hundreds of other fossil elements recovered from the Dinaledi Chamber in the Rising Star cave in South Africa. The expedition team was led by National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence Lee Berger of the University of the Witwatersrand. The find was announced by the University of the Witwatersrand, the National Geographic Society and the South African National Research Foundation and published in the journal eLife.  Photo by Robert Clark/National Geographic; Source: Lee Berger, Wits, photographed at Evolutionary Studies Institute PERMITTED USE: These images may be downloaded or are otherwise provided at no charge for one-time use for media/news coverage or promotion of the National Geographic Society’s H. naledi announcement and exclusively in conjunction thereof. Copying, distribution, archiving, sublicensing sale, or resale of the images are prohibited. DEFAULT: Failure to comply with the prohibitions and requirements set forth above will obligate the individual or entity receiving these images to pay a fee determined by the National Geographic Society. Mandatory usage requirements for National Geographic magazine photos 1-10: Please note: A maximum of 5 images total may be used online A maximum of 5 images total may be used on air A maximum of 3 images total may be used in print
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A composite skeleton of Homo naledi is surrounded by some of the hundreds of other fossil elements recovered from the Dinaledi Chamber in the Rising Star cave in South Africa in this photo from the October National Geographic magazine. The expedition team was led by National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence Lee Berger of the University of the Witwatersrand. The find was announced by the University of the Witwatersrand, the National Geographic Society and the South African National Research Foundation and published in the journal eLife. (Photo by Robert Clark/National Geographic; Source: Lee Berger, Wits, photographed at Evolutionary Studies Institute)

Two years after being discovered deep in a South African cave, the 1,500 fossils excavated during the Rising Star Expedition have been identified as belonging to a previously unknown early human relative that National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence Lee Berger and team have named Homo
naledi
.

An account of Homo naledi’s discovery and analysis is the cover story of the October National Geographic magazine, and is online now with photos, videos, animations, and graphics.

The finds are described scientifically in two new papers published in the journal eLife.

With at least 15 individuals of all ages and both sexes represented, the find adds an unprecedented amount of information to our understanding of early human evolution in Africa.

Just as striking, the absence of any other animal remains or large debris in the fossil chamber strongly suggests that these creatures intentionally deposited their dead within the cave. Until now, only modern humans and Neanderthals had been known to practice burial.

The NOVA/National Geographic documentary, “Dawn of Humanity,” chronicles the discovery and premieres in the U.S. Sept. 16, 2015, at 9 p.m. ET/8 p.m. CT on PBS in the U.S. and is streaming online now.

Join the discussion surrounding this remarkable discovery here and on Twitter using #NalediFossils.

Comments

  1. Michelle
    Ohio
    September 25, 2015, 8:01 am

    Imagine “what will ancient alien theorists say” about this one? Should make for an interesting link…

  2. Amit Gupta
    India
    September 10, 2015, 9:31 am

    Whoa! I knew our forefathers couldn’t be monkeys.

  3. John S. Mead
    Texas
    September 10, 2015, 6:47 am

    Had the thrill to get to spend time with the Rising star / Naledi team and interview many of them for my middle school students – a truly special experience! http://bluelionphotos.blogspot.com/2015/09/the-rising-star-interviews.html