New York Times, By John Noble Wilford, September 10
Acting on a tip from spelunkers two years ago, scientists in South Africa discovered what the cavers had only dimly glimpsed through a crack in a limestone wall deep in the Rising Star Cave: lots and lots of old bones.
The remains covered the earthen floor beyond the narrow opening. This was, the scientists concluded, a large, dark chamber for the dead of a previously unidentified species of the early human lineage — Homo naledi.
The new hominin species was announced on Thursday by an international team of more than 60 scientists led by Lee R. Berger, an American paleoanthropologist who is a professor of human evolution studies at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg. The species name, H. naledi, refers to the cave where the bones lay undisturbed for so long; “naledi” means “star” in the local Sesotho language.
In two papers published this week in the open-access journal eLife, the researchers said that the more than 1,550 fossil elements documenting the discovery constituted the largest sample for any hominin species in a single African site, and one of the largest anywhere in the world. Further, the scientists said, that sample is probably a small fraction of the fossils yet to be recovered from the chamber. So far the team has recovered parts of at least 15 individuals.
“With almost every bone in the body represented multiple times, Homo naledi is already practically the best-known fossil member of our lineage,” Dr. Berger said.
PBS Nova: Dawn of Humanity – to air this Wednesday, September 16th
National Geographic: New Human Ancestor Discovered: Homo naledi (Exclusive Video)
National Geographic: This Face Changes the Human Story. But How?
Washington Post: The caves that tell the story of humankind, including the latest, Homo naledi
Washington Post: A squeeze down a narrow crack, and then an amazing discovery
…and in other news, Boing Boing: National Geographic sold to Rupert Murdoch
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