In a cave 1.5 KM from Sterkfotein, a warren of caves has been discovered that contain fossils that could provide clues to our evolution. The fossils were discovered inside a deep chamber of the Rising Star Cave on October 2013. The fossils known as Homo Naledi(Naledi means star) have been dated to been between 335000 and 236000 years old.
“This places this population of primitive small-brained hominids at a time and place that is likely alongside Homo sapiens” says Wits Paleoanthropologist Professor Lee Berger. He was speaking at an official announcement at Maropeng Cradle of Humankind, North West of Johannesburg.
The Homo Naledi’s hands and feet had features of both apes and modern humans and its wrists, thumbs and palms were similar to modern humans, but the fingers were long and remarkably curved like those of existing apes according to a paper titled: The hand of Homo Naledi, published in the journal Nature Communications on Monday. These evolutionary mechanisms would indicate that the Australopithecine was able to climb trees but also capable of precise movements such as the making of tools.
The find revealed that complete skeletons of children and adults had a mixture of human-like and primitive features, which had been petite enough to fit through a narrow chute to get into the cave.Their feet were long and human-like and were made for long distance and effective walking according to honorary professor of Geology at Wits Paul Dirks.
As to the number of bones found in the cave, there were 150 hand bones from at least six adults and two young individuals, which were found in the Rising Star Cave system’s Dinaledi chamber, outside Johannesburg, two years ago.
What the new found evidence shows, is that another species of Hominid, could have lived beside modern day humans some time ago in the past. This Species of Humans known as Homo Naledi could prove to be quiet intelligent. There was evidence they had knowledge of how to dispose of a dead body.
“If there is one other species out there that shared the word “modern humans” in Africa, it is very likely there are others. We just need to find them,” says Berge.
They can no longer assume that we know which species made which tools, or even assume that it was modern humans that were the innovators of some of these critical technologies and behavioural breakthroughs in the Archaeological record of Africa.
The Scientific Community would indeed be delighted by the latest discovery as it could promote a better understanding of human evolution. The newly discovered caves are part of our heritage as South Africans and show the importance our country had in the early days of human kind. It will now depend on the future generation how this form of history will be viewed. Only time will tell what other people think of such artefacts.
Get breaking South Africa news, pictures, multimedia and analysis as it happens.