A new species of human relative, called Homo naledi, has been discovered in a South African cave.
(Also read our article: History in the making at Maropeng today)
The fossil find, which has been kept secret for several years, sheds light on the origins and diversity of our genus and challenges dominant assumptions about human existence.
The new species appears to have intentionally deposited bodies of its dead in a remote cave chamber, a behavior previously thought limited to humans.
Presenter Stephen Grootes spoke to EWN's Alex Eliseev, about what this species is said to look like:
According to Eliseev, the beauty of this discovery is that it allows the imagination to wonder. What we know about this species is that it is fairly tall, with hands and feet just like humans, with ape-like shoulders. You can tell they walked long distances.
Homo naledi's brain is said to be the size of an orange with skulls the size of an infant. The big headline for National Geographic's upcoming coverage of this is: ‘Almost Human’ which characterises the human-like attributes that the species has.
What we don't seem to really know right now is how long ago Homo naledi lived and for how long.
One of the biggest parts of the discovery is that the scientists are convinced that the chamber where Homo naledi was found (now named Dinaledi chamber) was some kind of burial chamber,which means the origins of the burial practice cannot be attributed to humans.
Listen to the conversation below:
The significance of Homo naledi
Xolani Gwala spoke to explorers Rick Hunter and Steven Tucker about their discovery.
Hunter said the significance of the discovery is that Homo naledi is a new species of human ancestor.
Listen to the conversation below:
Largest African trove ever found
The new species represents nearly 15 individuals in fossils and skeletons, according to paleo-anthropologist and professor, Lee Berger.
We have discovered the largest assemblage of fossil human relatives ever found in the history of Africa.— Professor Lee Berger, Paleoanthropologist and National Geographic Explorer (in residence)
National Geographic’s Chief Science and Exploration Officer Terry Garcia says discoveries like this are truly rare.
Most people in this field spend a lifetime pursuing something like this and never achieve it.— Terry Garcia, National Geographic’s Chief Science and Exploration Officer
WATCH: New species Homo naledi has been revealed as the historic discovery made in South Africa
The discovery was announced by the University of the Witwatersrand, the National Geographic Society and the South African National Research Foundation (NRF).
Wits University has described the find as a groundbreaking discovery of international importance.
Experience this amazing new discovery
Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa has encouraged South Africans to visit the Cradle of Humankind at Maropeng, where Homo naledi will be on exhibit for a month.
A 25% discount will be applied for the month - prices of tickets will be at R120 for adults and R65 for children. There will also be combined tickets' discount for school groups.
To find out more about the public access display visit the Maropeng website.
The discovery is featured in the cover story of National Geographic magazine's October 2015 issue, available online now and on print newsstands starting 29 September 2015.