Why Homo naledi is in News?
New research indicates that Homo naledi, an ancient human species with brains about one-third the size of modern humans, engaged in burial practices and created engravings deep within a cave system in southern Africa around 300,000 years ago. These findings challenge the assumption that larger brains are directly linked to higher intelligence.
The discoveries, presented in a series of papers accepted for publication in the journal eLife, have the potential to significantly change our understanding of human beliefs, culture, and symbolism.
Homo Naledi Buried their dead First
- Paleoanthropologist Lee Berger, known for his initial discovery of Homo naledi in 2013 within the Rising Star cave system near Johannesburg, is responsible for these new claims.
- Berger and his team uncovered over 1,800 bone fragments in an underground chamber accessible only through a four-story vertical drop.
- Given the positioning and intactness of some skeletal remains, it appears that the dead were deliberately placed on the chamber floor rather than randomly discarded down the chute, suggesting a burial practice.
- This discovery may push back the timeline for “body burials” by at least 10,000 years.
- National Geographic, which has sponsored the research, reports these findings.
Who were Homo Naledi?
- The remarkable discoveries in the Rising Star cave system go beyond just burial practices.
- The markings found on rocks inside the cave indicate that Homo naledi possessed a culture that can significantly impact our understanding of human behavior.
- While the carvings have not been dated yet, scientists propose that since only Homo naledi remains were found in the caves, it is highly likely that they were responsible for the drawings and paintings.
- Furthermore, evidence of fire has been found in the cave system.
- Considering that this extinct hominin species inhabited the depths of the caves, fire would have been essential for their survival.
- However, the question of who created the fire remains unanswered.
- Based on the research, scientists argue that brain size should not be the primary factor in determining the capability of complex cognition in hominin species.
If all the hypotheses regarding Homo naledi are confirmed, it would mean that despite having a brain capacity of less than 600 cubic centimeters (compared to the modern adult brain’s 1,500 cubic centimeters), this species was able to engage in burial practices, create intricate artwork, and use fire.
Berger Defines Homo Naledi
“This discovery calls for a global conversation among humans. What should our next steps be? How do we proceed? We have just uncovered evidence of another species with a distinct culture that is not human and does not fit within our classification. They are different from us. How should we regard it? I am eager to hear the discussion,” remarked Berger.
Considering that Homo naledi was able to accomplish these complex tasks with a brain size similar to that of an ape, it raises the question of what we, as modern humans, are doing with the surplus brain capacity that evolution has granted us over the past several thousand years.