Four ways Homo naledi is shaking up the human family tree

A palmar view on left, and dorsal view on right of Homo naledi's hands. PHOTO: Corbis Images

By foot and ankle

Homo naledi’s foot is a crucial in telling us how the hominin moved around. Based on the remains, it’s suggested that Homo naledi walked upright. This is a defining feature of the human lineage. Homo naledi’s foot does however have other features that are not entirely human-like.


By skull and bones

Homo naledi’s skull shape, stature and various ligaments are strikingly similar to those of the early Homo species. Homo naledi’s teeth are however shaped more primitively. The hominin’s legs, feet and hands are also strikingly similar to those in the Homo class.


Using the cave chamber

Based on the location of the fossil remains, and the fact that no other major fossil species were found alongside those of Homo naledi, scientists believe that the fossils may have been deliberately disposed of or placed in the specific cave. This suggests the possibility that Homo naledi exhibited ritualised behaviour. For centuries, humans were the only known creatures of habit and ritualised behaviour.


Through Homo floresiensis

One day into Homo naledi’s announcement, and a number of questions have come up as to whether Homo naledi’s remains are enough to warrant classifying it within the Homo genus. Similarly, scientists and other like-minded groups clashed over the 2003 discovery of Homo floresiensis, also known as “hobbit” or “Flo”, after a scientific paper claimed that the hominin was a modern human with Down’s Syndrome. Homo floresiensis, like Homo naledi, stood upright, had a small brain and large teeth.

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