Pieces of Homo naledi story continue to puzzle | Science News

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Pieces of Homo naledi story continue to puzzle

Age, place on hominid family tree, how fossils ended up in hard-to-reach cave remain unknown

3:11pm, April 19, 2016
Dinaledi Chamber

DEEP EVOLUTION  Homo naledi fossils were found in South Africa’s Dinaledi Chamber, outlined here. Researchers debate whether this species dropped its dead through a shaft into the underground space, creating the array of bones shown on the chamber floor.

ATLANTAHomo naledi, a rock star among fossil species in the human genus, has made an encore. Its return highlighted debate over whether this hominid was a distinct Homo species that purposefully disposed of at least some of its dead.

H. naledi made worldwide headlines last year when researchers announced the discovery of an unusually large collection of odd-looking Homo fossils in the bowels of a South African cave system. Presentations at the annual meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists on April 16 underscored key uncertainties about the hominid.

One of the biggest mysteries: H. naledi’s age. Efforts are under way to date the fossils and sediment from which they were excavated with a variety of techniques, said paleoanthropologist John Hawks of the University of Wisconsin–Madison. An initial age estimate may come later this year if different dating techniques

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