Homo Naledi may change evolutionary theories

Posted on May 10, 2017 12:00 am

A new study suggest that humans and primitive hominids may have lived alongside each other in Africa and could have even exchanged tools, cultural activities and behaviours. Homo naledi had a small, fist-sized brain similar to that of ancient hominin species that lived millions of years earlier. Researchers have published the first evidence that early humans co-existed in Africa. The findings, published in three papers in the journal eLife, raise fresh questions about human evolution.Hominins are an extinct group of the same genus as humans.Human’s closest living relatives, chimpanzees and gorillas, are further removed from Homo sapiens biologically than hominins are.Homo naledi unearthed in South Africa in 2013 was named in 2015 after fossils was unearthed near Sterkfontein and Swartkrans in South Africa and the treasure troves,northwest of Johannesburg, have yielded pieces of the puzzle of human evolution for decades.Researchers made the discovery while wiggling their way through the Rising Star cave system, is a network that includes more than 2km of mapped underground passages. Researchers have now used dating techniques to place the fossils between 236,000 and 335,000 years old.Researchers initially thought Homo naledi’s anatomy suggested the fossils might be as much as 2.5 million years old and were startled by evidence that suggested the species may have buried its dead, a trait long believed to be uniquely human.In comparison, the oldest dated fossils of Homo sapiens in Africa are about 200,000 years old.It’s hoped this new information could broaden the scientific community’s understanding about potential interactions between Homo naledi and Homo sapiens.”This is the first time one of these primitive hominids has been found in association with more modern humans in Africa,” Professor Paul Dirks said. “You can speculate all you like, but at the moment the original hypothesis that they were placed there on purpose, still holds,” Professor Dirks said.Overall, the new dating of the fossils opens up all sorts of possibilities for an interchange of tool use, cultural activities and behaviours.

The refined age range was calculated using ten different labs and six different techniques, with a lot of the initial work carried out at James Cook University‘s Advanced Analytical Centre in Douglas. It suggests tools found in Africa dated back to the Middle Stone Age may not have been the handiwork of Homo sapiens alone. The team led by palaeoanthropologist Lee Berger, at the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg says they have since discovered more of the species’ skeletons. According to experts, the date is said to be young for a species that still displays primitive characteristics found in fossils about 2 million years old. The brain of Homo naledi came close in size to that of very early members of the Homo genus, and of ancient australopiths and was only slightly larger than that of a chimpanzee. Its curved fingers and its shoulder, trunk and hip joints also seem ancient. When Berger and team first published about Homo naledi, in 2015, they had not yet dated its remains. The researchers methods included comparing ratios of radioactive isotopes of uranium and thorium, and electron-spin resonance which measures changes over time in the energy states of electrons in crystals of tooth enamel. According to researchers, the find also suggests that Homo naledi was likely to have shared cognitive traits with modern humans although no stone tools were found alongside Homo naledi, researchers contends that similarly aged tools from southern Africa could have been made by the species and not early Homo sapiens, as most archaeologists had thought. Researchers have also suggested that the Rising Star cave discovery represents the oldest known deliberate body disposal or burial in human history. The new discovery of a second chamber in the cave system with more Homo naledi remains makes that more likely. In conclusion, whenever i read such research materials, that keep disrupting existing findings is for me to be more scientifically literate but at times i dont know whether to believe some of this findings. After reading Homo naledi research, I can only say its appropriate for me as I have no background whatsoever in science or medicine, and based on the assumption is that what am doing it for the purpose of getting a basic understanding of human existence. I will not be here a century from now but this findings gives me a sense of the consensus, debates, and unanswered questions on my very own existence as a human being.

Contador Harrison