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Modern humans coexisted with another species

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Human Bones. Photo Source: aboutforensics.co.uk

The first modern humans to have existed in Africa lived alongside a hominin species that also appears to have buried its dead, behaviour it shared with Homo sapiens, South Africa’s University of the Witwatersrand announced on Tuesday.

The species known as Homo naledi, the discovery of which was initially announced in September 2015, had been thought to have lived up to 3 million years ago.

Dating of fossil sediments and teeth from specimen remains have now showed that Homo naledi lived only between 335,000 and 236,000 years ago, overlapping with modern humans.

During that period, “it was previously thought that only Homo sapiens existed in Africa,” the university said.

“More critically, it is at precisely this time that we see the rise of what has been called ‘modern human behaviour’ in southern Africa – behaviour attributed, until now, to the rise of modern humans … such as burial of the dead, self-adornment and complex tools,” the statement added.

The Homo naledi discoveries are based on remains found in two caves at the archaeological World Heritage Site known as the Cradle of Humankind near Johannesburg.

The first cave, discovered in 2013, contains remains from about 15 people.

They show Homo naledi had a brain a third of the size of man today, a slender body, human-like teeth, ape-like shoulders and feet for long-distance walking. It stood about 1.5 metres tall and weighed an average of 45 kilograms. Its human-like hands suggest that it might have made tools.

The second cave, the discovery of which was announced on Tuesday, contains remains from three people, including a complete skull.

The fact that the caves could only be accessed through narrow tunnels makes scientists believe Homo naledi used them as burial chambers.

“We can no longer assume that we know which species made which tools, or even assume that it was modern humans that were the innovators of some of these critical technological and behavioural breakthroughs in the archaeological record of Africa,” said professor Lee Berger from Witwatersrand.

“If there is one other species out there that shared the world with modern humans, it is very likely there are others. We just need to find them,” he added.(dpa/NAN)

 

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