Did Scientists Just Stumble Upon A Homo Naledi Burial Ground?

homo naledi bones

More Homo naledi bones brought forth even more questions about these mysterious hominids.


Deep inside a multi-chambered cave in South Africa, archaeologists discovered a set of bones in a cavern near the surface. They were able to identify fifteen individuals from those bones, which led to a new species, the Homo naledi.

These hominids looked to be far more primitive than modern humans, or even our well-studied cousins, the Neanderthals. But the farther archaeologists explore into the cave system, the more amazing their discoveries become. Now, they may have even possibly found a burial ground.

Did a Primitive Hominid, the Homo Naledi, Bury Its Dead?

These hominids were much smaller than us. They also carried around a brain only about a third of the size of the modern one. While brain size is not the only determining factor in intelligence, it is a strong indicator. However, their hands and backbones were more similar to ours than an ape’s, possibly indicating bipedalism.

Just recently, scientists completed the dating process of these bones. But that only served to deepen their mystery. The many samples revealed ages anywhere from 335,000 to 226,000 years ago. That is extraordinarily young for a species this primitive. It also makes them a contemporary of both Neanderthals and Homo sapiens.

Beyond the opening chamber of the cave network, a narrow passage leads to an even larger cavern. This passage narrows to only eight inches. That is extraordinarily dangerous for spelunking researchers. So only highly trained and quite small individuals could make it through.

Inside, the team found the remains of three more Homo naledi individuals. This could potentially add even more fuel to the fire which claims that the bodies were placed there on purpose. Which would mean that this cave is a burial ground?

Burying the dead is thought to be a much more modern development in hominids. It shows a thought pattern and level of self-awareness that was considered impossible in such an early human. A research team published two new studies on the matter in the open access journal eLife.

“There’s a potential that we are looking at some kind of rudimentary cultural practice associated with this widely shared emotion of grief,” said John Hawks.
He is a paleoanthropologist part of the University of Wisconsin at Madison and one of the leaders of the Rising Star Expedition, which explored the cave system.
Image Source: Wikimedia

About Cliff Jenkins Scott

Cliff likes to describe himself as made for the hard road. Freelancing is taking off across the world. And yet, valuable opportunities are hard to find he thinks, particularly when it comes to writing. After graduating with an MA degree in Communication as a major and Technology and Writing as minors, Cliff decided to give his own website hosting creative writing a boost and engage in an overwhelming number of projects, all of them focused on writing. He didn’t look for a quick burnout, but his eagerness to learn as much as possible as rapidly as possible kept him going.