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“Neo” skull of Homo naledi from the Lesedi Chamber of the Rising Star cave system in South Africa. The skull has been painstakingly reconstructed, providing a much more complete portrait of the early hominin. Photo: John Hawks CC-BY
The discovery, announced today (May 9, 2017) with the publication of a series of papers in the journal eLife, helps round out the picture of a creature that scientists now know shared the landscape with modern humans — and probably other hominin species — between 226,000 and 335,000 years ago. The discovery of the new fossils representing the remains of at least three juvenile and adult specimens includes a “wonderfully complete skull,” says University of Wisconsin–Madison anthropologist John Hawks.
The new chamber is also exceedingly difficult to access, requiring those excavating the fossils to crawl, climb and squeeze their way in pitch dark to the fossil cache.
Homo naledi was very different from archaic humans that lived around the same time. Left: Kabwe skull from Zambia, an archaic human. Right: “Neo” skull of Homo naledi. Photo: John Hawks CC-BY
Sept. 10, 2015: Fossil Trove Adds a New Limb to Human Family Tree