A cave crammed with fossil remains of a previously undiscovered human ancestor suggests that these primitive people were burying their dead.
The new species has been given the name Homo naledi, which in a local language means "star", as a nod to the place of its discovery, within the Rising Star cave near Johannesburg.
More than 1500 fossil specimens have since been recovered from the site, which was first uncovered in 2013 by two amateur cavers.
But thereafter the differences become less apparent. The teeth of H. naledi are similar in size to our own, although they are still different in overall shape, reflecting a different diet. These creatures walked on two legs, their feet are nearly identical to ours, and their hands would pass as human with the exception that the fingers are more curved and their thumbs would have delivered an extremely powerful grip.
A painstaking scrutiny of the specimens has failed to turn up any signs of trauma or cannibalism, there are no wild animal remains found alongside the Homo naledi fossils to account for them being in the cave, and analysis of the sediment in the cave has ruled out a flash flood washing the bones into the hole. Moreover, the cave they were found in is not thought to have changed or been reconfigured by geological events at any recent point.
With their combination of features, these new fossils could sit very early in the story of human evolution, perhaps as far back as 2.5 million years, or they could be much more recent, at 100,000 years, and perhaps represent an offshoot of the human evolutionary arrow.
According to study co-author Charles Musiba from the University of Colorado, "the geology of the cave is extremely complex. It's a painstaking job reconstructing the deposition history and the time line, and unfortunately we're not there yet, but we're working on that."
who to believe....Charles or Desmond......hmmmmmm greengo, Tue, 5th Jan 2016