Scientists in South Africa have made more revelations of the recently discovered species of the human-like Homo naledi.
The species, whose remains were first discovered in a South African cave in 2013, reportedly lived between 236,000 and 335,000 years ago, meaning they lived among early humans, according to a report released Tuesday.
A careful examination of the fossils by the team of scientists led by Lee Berger of Wits University in Johannesburg showed that the Homo naledi had a mix of human and more primitive features, such as a small brain.
“This research shows that we come from common roots, that we represent a common humanity. If we’re going to survive as a species, that’s what we need to remember,” Adam Habib, vice-chancellor of Wits University, said.
In the report, the scientists claim the new revelations are indicative of the fact that the human “Homo” family tree was more diverse than previously thought in the evolution of Homo sapiens.
A lot of scientists and archaeologists have expressed their surprise at the new discoveries, especially the astonishingly young age of the species and its primitive characteristics.
Some say they still can’t fathom how such primeval characteristics, such as the small brain; curved fingers; and form of the shoulder, trunk, and hip joint, could exist in such a young species about 2 million years old.
“How did a comparably strange and small-brained species linger on in southern Africa, seemingly alongside more ‘advanced humans’?” asks Chris Stringer of the Natural History Museum in London in his letter to the Associated Press.
Expressing his surprise at the special discoveries, Richard Potts of the Smithsonian Institute’s National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C., suggested that the Homo naledi species may have evolved and persisted in isolation from other species of Homo.
A Second Chamber
The research team also announced the discovery of a second chamber, where the Homo naledi remains were found. The team believes that this human-like species deliberately disposed of its dead in pitch-black caves that are extremely difficult to reach.
But some critics have questioned whether the small-brained species was capable of such behavior, speculating that other ways of accessing the caves may have existed in the past.
So far, there is no evidence that the Homo naledi used stone tools or harnessed fire for its own uses like other species did at the time.