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Homo naledi UPSC NOTE

Homo naledi

  • Homo naledi is an extinct species of archaic human 

  • Discovered in 2013 in the Rising Star Cave ( a UNESCO World Heritage Site) Cradle of Humankind, South Africa dating to the Middle Pleistocene 335,000–236,000 years ago.

  • The remains of at least 15 individuals, including adults, juveniles, and infants, were found, making it the largest collection of a single hominin species in Africa.

  • Despite this exceptionally high number of specimens, their classification with other Homo species remains unclear.



  • Along with similarities to contemporary Homo, they share several characteristics with the ancestral Australopithecus and early Homo as well (mosaic evolution).

  • Most notably a small cranial capacity of 465–610 cm3 compared with 1,270–1,330 cm3 in modern humans.

  • Homo naledi exhibits a combination of primitive and modern features and is not a direct ancestor of modern humans.

  • Short-statured, small-brained.



Study findings

  • Homo Naledi deliberately buried their dead.

    • Humans exhibit a unique behavior among primates by burying their dead, which sets them apart from other animals. This behavior is known as Mortuary behavior, characterized by social acts and a complex understanding of death.

  • Previously, the earliest evidence of Mortuary behavior was found among Neanderthals and modern humans, occurring more than 100,000 years after Homo naledi.

  • Homo naledi may have created rock art in Rising Star Cave. 

    • Rock art has traditionally been associated with Homo sapiens and other large-brained ancestors.

  • Homo naledi used fire 

    • The researchers also claim the mortuary and engraving activities in Rising Star Cave involved strategic use of fire for illumination.



Controversy

  • There is no compelling evidence of deliberately excavated pits or anatomical alignment of skeletal remains.

  • The spatial association of some skeletal elements does not confirm intentional burial, as it could be attributed to natural processes such as trampling or cave collapse.

  • However, the absence of dating for the engravings raises doubts about their attribution to Homo naledi. Without firm dates obtained through associated residues, natural deposits, or archaeological layers, it is premature to ascribe the engravings to Homo naledi.

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