Shaking up the family tree
Skeletons of Homo naledi, a primitive-looking relative to modern humans, were first found in the Rising Star cave system in South Africa in 2013. The discovery of this previously unknown small-brained hominin changed scientists’ understanding of human evolution and the dawn of humanity.
The skull of an adult Homo naledi male, along with an almost-complete skeleton, was found in the Lesedi chamber of the Rising Star cave system near Johannesburg, in South Africa. Researchers dubbed the nearly complete skeleton “Neo.”
This image shows how Homo naledi compared to other ancient humans that lived around the same time. On the left is a Kabwe skull from Zambia, an archaic human. At right, the “Neo” skull of Homo naledi.
A composite skeleton of H. naledi is surrounded by some of the hundreds of other fossil elements recovered from the Dinaledi Chamber in the Rising Star cave in South Africa.
Small vs. big brains
Researchers say Homo naledi likely shared a landscape with early Homo sapiens, which suggests Homo naledi lived more recently than scientists previously thought.