Scientists Discover Homo Naledi, Early Human Ancestor

A newly discovered early human ancestor could have used tools and may have even figured out how to bury its dead, scientists said Thursday — a find they said was "unlike anything that we have seen" in the fossil record.

The new species, dubbed Homo naledi for the South African cave where more than 1,550 numbered fossil elements were discovered, was announced in Johannesburg, South Africa, by the University of the Witwatersrand, the National Geographic Society and the South African Department of Science and Technology/National Research Foundation.

At about 5 feet tall and only 100 or so pounds, and with a brain only about the size of an average orange, H. naledi is a startling combination of australopith-like and human-like features that, until now, was entirely unknown to science, researchers said.

This March 2015 photo provided by National Geographic from their October 2015 issue shows a reconstruction of Homo naledi's face by paleoartist John Gurche at his studio in Trumansburg, N.Y. In an announcement made Thursday, Sept. 10, 2015, scientists say fossils found deep in a South African cave revealed the new member of the human family tree.
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