“New” Discovery in South Africa

Over 1500 fossils of what is believed to be a new species of human ancestor has been discovered in South Africa. However, scientists have debated over whether the newly found fossils actually indicate a new hominid species. Many experts believe that the recently discovered remains are too similar to the species Homo Erectus discovered in the late 19th century, and that a unique trait must be found in order to mark this as a new branch of species. Despite this controversy, the fossils have been classified as new species called Homo Naledi and have been examined meticulously.

The height and weight of the Homo Naledi fall within the range of small-bodied modern humans with males standing at around 5 feet tall and weighing 100 pounds, while females slightly shorter and weighing slightly less. Scientists who analyzed Homo Naledi believe it stood upright and was bipedal (walked on two legs). However, the physical characteristics of the Homo Naledi aren’t what has made this an exciting discovery.

Scientists believe that the way the fossils were preserved point to the Homo Naledi participating in modern human burial rituals. Despite its primitive physical characteristics–small brain cavity and stature–the ritual behavior of Homo Naledi shows that the burial of the dead is not a characteristic unique to modern Homo Sapiens, forcing scientists to rethink the link between us and primitive hominids.   

The Homo Naledi fossils have yet to dated, a process that is difficult and in some cases not even possible. Until some of the fossils can be given a time-frame, and scientists begin to sway one way or another on the merit of the discovery, it’s a mystery whether this discovery is the most astonishing human fossil discovery in half a century, or if it’s only moderately significant.

 Jamie Rich, Staff Writer

Posted by on September 24, 2015. Filed under World News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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