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Scientists Find New Human Species That Could Rewrite History

The early human species has a shocking mix of primitive and modern features

Deep inside a cave in South Africa, scientists have discovered more than 1,500 bones from 15 individuals belonging to a new early human species.

It’s hoped the species, named Homo naledi, will help paleontologists understand more about how we evolved and the origin of our species.

Professor Lee Berger, a National Geographic Explorer, said, "We'd gone in with the idea of recovering one fossil. That turned into multiple fossils. That turned into the discovery of multiple skeletons and multiple individuals.”

“With almost every bone in the body represented multiple times, Homo naledi is already practically the best-known fossil member of our lineage.”

The team lays out fossils of Homo naledi at the University of the Witwatersrand’s Evolutionary Studies Institute.

Image credit: Robert Clark / National Geographic 

Homo naledi seems to be most closely related to Homo erectus, stood around 5 feet tall and weighed about 45 kilograms. Its brain was about one-third the size of current human brains.

While the shoulders, hips, and torso have more in common with our earlier ancestors, the lower body is much more humanlike.

“The hands suggest tool-using capabilities,” said Dr. Tracy Kivell of the University of Kent who studied H. naledi’s anatomy. “Surprisingly, H. naledi has extremely curved fingers, more curved than almost any other species of early hominin, which clearly demonstrates climbing capabilities.”

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