In 2015 there was discovered a new species of hominid, homo naledi. This was announced by the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits), the National Geographic Society, the Department of Science and Technology and the National Research Fpundation of South Aftica, on 10 September 2015.
This new discovery of species consists of more than 1550 fossil elements making it the single largest fossil hominin to be ever found on the entire African continent.
The new species of hominid, homo naledi were found in deep underground in a chamber named Dinaledi, or Chamber of Stars, by researchers led by Professor Lee Berger of the Evolutionary studies Institute at Wits. The discovery of the chamber of stars, in the Cradle of Humankind about 50km northwest of Johannesburg, was announced by the Rising Star Expedition, in 2013.
Hominid naledi was named after the Rising Star Cave. So far, the team has recovered parts of at least 15 individuals. A wealth of bones remain still to be excated. Excavation is difficult because the chamber is about 90m from the cave entrance and can be accessed only by very slender individuals.
The bones all belong to the hominin species. The bones exhibit no carnivore or savenger marks, nor any other signs that non-human or natural processes such as water, were responsible for their deposition.
The homo naledi species exhibits human and primitive features. Whereas the feet are virtually indistinguishable from the human body, the shoulders are like those of apes. The hands have extremely curved fingers showing climbing abilities, but were capable of tool-making.
The brain is tiny “about the size of an average orange” and would have been perched on a body about 1.5m tall, weighing about 45kg. Apart from a few mouse and bird remains, the bones all belong to the hominid which is an unprecedented situation in the fossil hominid record.