What does the discovery of Homo Naledi in a cave tell us about them?

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Offline thedoc

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Peter A Jacobs asked the Naked Scientists:
   Does this finding of Homo Naledi, in a deep dark cave, indicate that they had command of fire? Or possibly, that they were herded into the cave by another Homo?
What do you think?
« Last Edit: 05/10/2015 17:50:01 by _system »

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Offline evan_au

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These are all questions that the investigators will be asking. Based on brief descriptions I have heard, it sounds to me like:
Quote from: Peter A Jacobs
deep dark cave
It would have been impossible to maneuver a body through the tortuous path that the discoverers followed (and extremely difficult for even a cooperative live human).

I expect that in the past, there was a shorter access tunnel to the outside, which has now collapsed.

The lack of disturbance by wild animals suggests that the entrance was intentionally blocked, to keep animals out.

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they were herded into the cave by another Homo
Based on the estimated number of skeletons in a small space, it was used for disposal of corpses, which was carried out over a long period of time.

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command of fire?
The researchers have taken scrapings from the cave walls, and will be looking for evidence of soot.

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Offline Bill S

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Quote from: Evan
I expect that in the past, there was a shorter access tunnel to the outside, which has now collapsed.

I’m with you there, Evan:

Unless H. naledi indulged in cave exploration, how would they have known about the Dinaledi Cavern in the first place?

It has been suggested that the “difficulty of access would seem to rule out formal burial”, and that “attempted escape from some catastrophic surface event” might be a possibility. On the other hand, the deposition of the remains indicates that it took place over a long period, which militates against the escape idea.

It seems that the “Dragon’s Back” may be a block that dropped from the roof, which indicates that there have been changes in the form of the caves.
There never was nothing.

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Offline raptor1956

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Well they didn't have flashlights so getting around in the dark and finding your way through many narrow tunnels and passages strains the idea of the possible unless:

A.  There was a more direct entrance that has since disappeared

or

B.   They had some form of portable light and that could only be fire

Even with a more direct entrance it's hard to imagine finding your way without light unless the resting place and entrance were quite close. 

This is one of the more important questions and it will be interesting to see if they are able to detect soot as that would be highly suggestive of fire.  The other very interesting question is whether or not they performed ritual burials. 


Brian

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Offline Paul Repstock

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My first post:
I don't mean to be dismissive of the scientists. However, I don't think this find has any great "signifigance" beyond a wonderfull opportunity to examin a large number of early Hominid skeletons.
I see the cave as a Natural Trap which "over centuries" captured and held the bodies of some members of a population which sheltered in the outer caverns.
These were definitely "low-tech" people who would not have been able to mount "rescue operations". (They had no lights, and probably no ropes.)

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Offline chris

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Dear Paul - a warm welcome.

I would be the first to agree with you were it not for the bizarre setting in which these remains have been discovered. A natural "trap", such as a sinkhole, into which things fall captures a range of flora and fauna across a period of time. The site at which A. sediba was discovered, for instance, was just such a situation and contains the remains of many species.

But the locale containing H. naledi contains exclusively remains of these individuals. There is no evidence that a flood washed the bones in there, and there are other findings, yet to be made public, that make a compelling case for why it's regarded as highly plausible that these individuals were depositing their own within this cave.

It's certainly an interesting discovery...
I never forget a face, but in your case I'll make an exception - Groucho Marx