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.
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.