A new species in the evolution of humanity?

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Recent discoveries of bones in a cave in South Africa have scholars wondering if there is a new branch on the tree that leads to Homo sapiens.  Read Robert Lee Hotz’s article from the Wall Street Journal, September 11, 2015. What can we say about how these bones got here? Were they intentionally buried? If so, why? If so…these are very early burials.

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Professor Lee Berger kissing a replica of a Homo naledi skull.

John Noble Wilford’s article from the New York Times, September 10, 2015.

Lots of images in this article from The Telegraph (UK).

And the Press Release from The National Geographic, September 10, 2015.

20 thoughts on “A new species in the evolution of humanity?

  1. Martin Gomez

    To me it seems that these remains arrived to this cave system intentionally. It is obviously not clear whether these are remains of ritually buried dead or if perhaps these creatures chose the cave as a final resting place, much like how animals hide themselves when they know they are dying. While much more interesting if they were ritually buried, the idea that so many may have chosen to die in the cave also suggests a surprising intelligence and self-awareness.

  2. Jacob Schroth

    This is very interesting. It seems that these bone fragments that have been found and dug up were placed in an “organized” way, meaning there was intellectual thought that went into placing these bodies in the caves. It will be interesting to follow this story and read when they find out exact when these remains were from.

  3. Taylor Norquist

    It was very interesting to see how different the bones were back then verses what they look like now, but it was fascinating to see the many similarities as well. Although we are not sure who the people are and where they came from scientists are examining the bones and the caves where they were from, trying to discover what led them the that exact place. The scientists mentioned that the bodies could have been placed there for burial and had some knowledge of self-awareness, but that is not certain at this time.

  4. Mona

    I’m a science person so I was just going to say how cool it is to see how bones have changed over time. There are so many differences yet similarities between the skulls then and the skulls now. Its so interesting how just by studying these bones, one can give it an age.
    I also want to comment on Martin’s comment. I too agree that the idea that so many may have chosen to die in the cave suggests intelligence and self-awareness. And I like how he brought up how animals kind of hide away in dark places when they are dying. It makes me want to know if they were in fact placed there or chose to be there.

  5. Michael Ryan

    I found this article to be incredibly interesting for numerous different reasons. First off I agree with the idea that everyone else seems to have at this point and that is that I find it somewhat odd how these remains were found and how they were said to have been organized, seems a little fishy to me but what do I know! Also I found it interesting to think about this job and the people who do this job in general. Wouldnt it be amazing to be the person who finds an incredibly discovery like this? I can just imagine that being a very fulfilling job at that point. Either way I enjoyed the article thoroughly!

  6. Aidan O'Connor

    It has huge significance to our understanding of early humanity if these remains were indeed intentionally buried. This new addition to our ancestral tree, and one that shows signs of burying their dead, is a huge key to understanding our ancestors and their practices. I also wonder if this spot had some sort of meaning to these ancient humans due to the large number of bodies found there. Very exciting to live in a time where discoveries like these are still being made.

  7. Sydney Andrews

    It is very cool to see the tree of skulls and how they have evolved over time to be what they are now! Like others have mentioned, it is very strange that the bones seem to be buried in an organized way. It will be interesting to see if any type of explanation will be made about this seemingly organized burial if technology allows the reveal of how old these bones actually are! It amazing the self awareness these individuals may have had even so long ago.

  8. Jessica Schmitt

    It is fascinating to see how the structure of the human body has changed over thousands of years. With these bodies being buried in the most secretive part of the cave, they must have had a general burial practice for the dead. Or could they have lived there? These early humans could have lived in the areas of the cave that are closest to the entrance and moved to the back when threatened. Whether the early humans lived there or were placed there when they died, the experience of finding a new species is riveting.

  9. Olivia Gallagher

    This article was a very interesting read. This discovery of ancient bones can help us as humans discover more about our own evolution throughout time. This is a great finding of ancient bone fragments because it can give us more of an understanding of how different species flourished and while other became extinct.

  10. Jim Bramnick

    This is very interesting to say the least. This is defiantly a testament to the fact that we have more things to find in this world. One of my small qualms when taking art history was that it would be a class about things that have already happened and thus could only study things that happened long ago, or that are intangible. This altered my perception of that greatly, to find another branch of human evolution from an archaeological dig, that is amazing! Not only did they discover a new branch of evolution with the bones they discovered one of the researchers stated that it was one of the best preserved remains of any of the human evolutionary tree. This discovery, in my humble opinion, can be related to the discovery of arsenic based life forms in California for it’s magnitude. This could give us more information for what to look for in new studies just as the arsenic based life forms did for NASA.

  11. Victoria Coleman

    I enjoyed reading this article, it gives you a whole new perspective on fossils and the process in which we evolved from apes to ape-like men to the homo sapiens we are. The article by Mr. Wilford talks about this new branch of hominin species that was discovered in Rising Star Cave in South Africa, and it gets me thinking what if there are more branches of the evolution tree diagram shown? Maybe there’s more fossils or dried up bones lying deep in another cavern somewhere in South Africa just waiting to be discovered? That’s why this article piqued my interest in more ways than one.

  12. Cara Dudley

    I thought this was an interesting read. It’s neat to see how the human skeleton has evolved and changed over time. I want to see if they ever really figure out if the bones were possibly placed like they were for a burial ritual or if it was for something else. It would be neat to see what other information comes out about this new species once they do some more research. I think it would be cool to see all the bones laid out and be able to look at how much humans have changed. This could be a big break through for the theory of evolution.

  13. Erica Parker

    I agree with pretty much everyone that replied to this article that the placement of the bones is odd, and they could be in that specific location for multiple reasons. I think research in this discipline should continue. Finding our where we come from can help us to better understand the future. It is always amazing to see the remains from so long ago. The human species has really changed. It makes you wonder what humans will look like thousands of years from now.

  14. Emily Jewell

    This article was fascinating to read. The discovery of these bones can provide more insight behind evolution and how humans could have changed over the years. As many people have mentioned before, it is quite strange how the bones were arranged. It is suggested that this many be part of a burial ritual which gives us greater insight to the practices and self awareness of the newly discovered species. With more research, it will be interesting to see what else will be discovered about our ancient ancestors.

  15. Alex Patzman

    I thought it was really interesting to see how these people treated their dead. The article said that this practice was not necessarily a religious practice, but something that is a repeated action. I wonder why they wanted to bury their dead, or if maybe there was some religious significance to this practice. It was really interesting to see how earlier people had similar funerary practices as modern people do today.

  16. Sarah Law

    As many other people have commented, I find it very interesting that the bones were found organized and and placed out in a thoughtful manner. This is definitely the start to finding out more about the way that they treated their dead and therefore more about the structure of these peoples society. I am curious about these people and how they thought about life after death or other religious practices because often people take care of the layout of their dead when they think it will effect the dead later.

  17. Libby Patterson

    I’m not exactly sure what interests me more, the fact that there has been a discovery of a new branch in the evolution train or their burial traditions. I find it extremely interesting how much importance and thought was put into the burial of their dead. The location in which they choose to put the bodies, in a secluded and sheltered place seems to me as if they were protecting the bodies. This however leaves two questions in my mind, from what? and why? The answer could be as simple as protecting the bodies from animals getting into them, or perhaps they had their own ideas about what happens after life. Either way, this new discovery could change how people look at not only the past, but how we look to our future.

  18. Lauren Cook

    This is an amazing find for paleoanthropologist and anyone who is interested in evolution. To know there is another branch of the human evolution surprises me. The bones were found in specific space considering it had the largest amount of parts of remains in any site in Africa. I do believe this was a burial practice. It may not have anything to do with religion, but it was still a place where they left their deceased. It’s interesting to know that such early people thought about moving their dead to a secluded place.

  19. Ellie A

    I find this very interesting. Though we don’t know how these bones got there, it seems like they were “meant” to be there in the sense that it was planned. If that is the case, that just shows how intelligent our ancestors were. Perhaps they had lain these bones in the cave as a sort of burial ritual, or maybe this was the spot they chose to die in. Either way, it shows that they were aware of what was happening and that it most likely would have been planned. I think that it will be great to find out exactly where these remains were from and how they got there.

  20. Nicolette Vallee

    The fact that self-awareness relating to the placement of these bodies was possible absolutely amazes me. According to the placement of these bones, there is a chance that the individuals whom buried them were planning on them to be found. This is not proven yet, but I have confidence that scientists will find it to be true with more research on the bones.


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