JOHANNESBURG – Scientists in South Africa working at Moropeng, the site located just outside of Johannesburg and known as the “Cradle of Humankind,” have discovered a mass underground grave containing the remains of hundreds of individuals from what they say is an entirely new species of the human family.
“I give you a new species of human – ‘homo naledi,’” said Professor Lee Berger, head of the paleontology team at University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, and leader of the discovery team.
The species’ brains were a third of the size of today’s humans but they stood like us, and had similar feet and hands, although their fingers were elegantly curved. This new species, Berger said, should be placed as an early humanoid just before the time of homo sapiens. The species could date back as far as 2.8 million years, according to experts.
“History books will have to be rewritten.”
– Cyril Ramaphosa, deputy president of SAouth Africa
South Africa’s deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa told Fox News Thursday that “history books will have to be rewritten” due to the discovery, which was made in a subterranean chamber by a team of 60 so-called “underground astronauts.” The archaeologists have come across 1,500 fossils – entire families of hundreds of early humans.
The discovery of these fossils, believed by scientists to possibly be the largest group of individuals in fossil form ever found in one place anywhere in the world, was made in 2013. When the team of ‘astronauts’ was put together, only small – and thin – scientists were encouraged to apply. Archaeologists had to squeeze through a 10- inch wide gap between underground rocks – dubbed “Superman’s Crawl,” and go through a succession of caves, before finally making a vertical 10-yard drop to get into the now-named Dinaledi Chamber. At the entrance, they found 300 fossils, and in the chamber itself some 1,200 fossilized bones. After two years of keeping the discovery secret, the search is ongoing.
“There are hundreds more fossils probably to be found,” said Berger.
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This photo provided by National Geographic from their October 2015 issue shows a composite skeleton of Homo naledi surrounded by some of the hundreds of other fossil elements recovered from the Rising Star cave in South Africa. (Robert Clark/National Geographic, Lee Berger/ …Read More