“We’ve found a new species that we are placing in the genus Homo, which is really quite remarkable,” Lee Berger, a paleoanthropologist who led the work at the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, reportedly said. He described the slender, small-brained creatures as “long-legged”, “pinheaded” and “gangly”.
Welcome to history, Homo Naledi! The remains of the species were found by a international team of scientists who squeezed through a small fissure along the Rising Star cave just outside of Johannesburg.
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More than 1,500 pieces of bone belonging to approximately 15 individuals were excavated from the cave.
It took two expeditions to recover the fossils, the first completed in 2013 and the second in 2014. Now that the bones have been cleaned, examined, and analyzed scientists were finally able to determine the species.
"The hands suggest tool-using capabilities," Dr. Tracy Kivell, a biological anthropologist at the University of Kent in England, who was part of the team that studied H. naledi’s anatomy, reportedly said in a press release.
"Surprisingly, H. naledi has extremely curved fingers, more curved than almost any other species of early hominin, which clearly demonstrates climbing capabilities."
According to researchers, more H. naledi fossils may be waiting to be discovered inside the cave. They are also continuing to study the fossils that have already been recovered.
The findings were first reported in the online journal eLife and will be featured in a NOVA/National Geographic Television special this month.