Additional information has come to light regarding the age of H. naledi. This species has been dated at between 335-236 kya [thousand years ago]. What this date does is to place H. naledi at a time and place within the realm of archaic modern humans which means they lived for a time alongside modern humans in South Africa. This is highly significant because it is the first time paleoanthropologists have demonstrated that another species of hominin survived alongside modern humans IN AFRICA. These dates are for the fossil finds found in the Dinaledi section of the Rising Star Cave system.
As I mentioned in the post above the discovery of a second cave adds support for the hypothesis that H. naledi was using this cave system to basically dispose of their dead. This has been considered a behavior of modern humans and Neanderthals but now it appears we have yet another hominin species that also disposed of their dead and this shows that they were not animatistic but human.
The age of H. naledi has stunned many because it is so recent. The fossils show features that are primitive like those we see in H. rudolfensis and H. habilis. However, H. naledi has some features that are found in modern humans (Homo sapiens). Researchers themselves are said to be surprised by the dates as they suspected H. naledi was much older. One of the researchers at the site said that they had a suspicion that the fossils were young because when they touched them they noticed something that felt different about them. This researchers also said, “…they appeared hardly fossilized.”
Lead researchers and discoverer Dr Lee Berger said, “We can no longer assume that we know which species made which tools, or even assume that it was modern humans that were the innovators of some of these critical technological and behavioral breakthroughs in the archaeological record of Africa. If there is one other species out there that shared the world with modern humans in Africa, it is very likely there are others. We just need to find them.”
This is highly significant to the work we have been doing here because Peron’s theory has been that many ancient human ancestors coexisted and interbred with each other. It seems that the finds at Rising Star Cave are adding evidence for this.
Dr John Hawks who is on the research team at Rising Star said, “I think some scientists assumed they knew how human evolution happened, but these new fossil discoveries, plus what we know from genetics, tell us that the southern half of Africa was home to a diversity that we’ve never seen anywhere else.” Dr Hawks went on to say that the recent finds in the new cavern area adds more evidence to the theory that H. naledi was using the cave system to dispose of their dead.
So far researchers have uncovered more than 130 hominin specimens from the newly discovered cavern known as the Lesedi Chamber. These bones belong to at least three individuals (two adults and one child). The child’s remains indicate it was under five years old.