Back in 2013, unidentified ancient bones were found in a cave in South Africa. Named Homo naledi, they were from a primitive hominid, almost as much like a great ape as from a Homo sapiens.
Ever since, scientists have been looking for a way to place this new species on the human family tree. With a rigorous dating process finally complete, they consider they may have just achieved this feat. Or maybe they’ve just raised more questions.
The dating process gave the multiple bones dates anywhere from 335,000 to 235,000 BCE. That is a time when modern humans were fully developing, and it makes the Homo naledi a possible contemporary of our ancestors, along with the Neanderthals.
But that would also make them part of an entirely different branch of the human family tree. These creatures were much smaller than us, and their brains had about a third of the volume. That makes them extremely primitive compared to other hominids which are closer to us on the evolutionary scale.
Homo Naledi Still Looking to Fit In After Dating the Bones
To further add confusion to the story, the locations in which these bones were found led to some interesting theories.
The first bones were discovered in a chamber of the cave relatively close to the surface. Further in, scientists found a shaft to a second cavern.
This narrows to only eight inches in certain parts, so very specialized spelunking scientists had to make the descent. In fact, only the female members of the team were small and experienced enough to find their way in.
What they discovered were over 1,500 bones belonging to individuals of this species. This is a very large number to be confined inside such a secluded area. Which also led some to believe this may have been a burial chamber.