JOHANNESBURG – The fossil remains of an early hominid child who died nearly 250,000 years ago have been discovered in a cave in South Africa by a team of international and South African scientists.
The team announced the discovery of a partial skull and teeth from a Homo naledi child who died when he was about four to six years old.
The remains were found in a remote part of the cave, suggesting that the body had been placed there on purpose, in what could be some sort of grave, said Professor Guy Berger of the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, who led the team in a statement. Thursday.
The location “adds mystery as to how these many remains were created in these remote, dark spaces of the Rising Star Cave system,” he added.
Homo naledi is a species of archaic human found in the Rising Star Cave, Cradle of Humankind, 30 miles northwest of Johannesburg. Homo naledi dates to the Middle Pleistocene era 335,000-236,000 years ago.
The first discovery, first published in 2015, includes 1,550 samples representing 737 different elements and at least 15 different individuals.
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“Homo naledi is still one of the most enigmatic ancient human relatives ever discovered,” Berger said. “It is clearly a primitive species that existed at a time when we previously thought only modern humans were in Africa.”
He added that “its very presence at that time and in this place complicates our understanding of who did what first regarding the invention of complex stone tool cultures and even ritual practices.”
The new discovery is described in two articles in the journal PaleoAnthropology.