By Kyle Jones
Scientists have discovered 15 partial skeletons belonging to a new human-like species in a burial chamber deep inside a South African cave system.
The discovery of so many partial skeletons is the single largest discovery of its type in Africa.
Researchers have named the newly discovered species naledi, and have classified it within the grouping, or genus, Homo. This is the same genus to which modern day humans belong.
The skeletal remains have not yet been carbon dated, but Professor Lee Burger who led the exhibition believes that Homo naledi could be among the first species within our genus. This means that the species could have lived up to 3 million years ago.
H. naledi was exceptionally tall, standing at around 150 centimeters (5 Feet) with well-muscled joints. Its skull is similar in shape to modern day humans, except for a pronounced brow and a much smaller brain cavity.
The large number of skeletal remains found in the cave has led the scientific team who discovered the new species to believe that the cave was used by H. naledi for ritualistic burial. If proven true, than this would be the earliest known example of ritual burial.
Further study of the fossil remains is required. Researchers agree; however, that the discovery is a significant finding in the scientific understanding of ancient human ancestors.
Cover Photo Credit: Mark Thiessen/National Geographic