8 Lesedi And Dinaledi Map
(Image: Wits Uni­ver­si­ty)

The Ris­ing Star Cave system

After almost two years of effort and using sev­en dif­fer­ent meth­ods (includ­ing some that required using small pieces of fos­sil teeth and bone), sci­en­tists con­clud­ed that the 15 indi­vid­u­als with­in the Dinale­di Cham­ber prob­a­bly lived and died around 200,000 to 300,000 years ago. This was a big sur­prise, because many sci­en­tists, look­ing at the form of Homo nale­di, thought it would be much old­er — maybe even two mil­lion years or more. Instead, Homo nale­di was liv­ing near the Cra­dle of Humankind and using the Ris­ing Star Cave around the same time that our own species, Homo sapi­ens, first appeared (195,000 years ago in East Africa). 

Clear­ly Homo nale­di was a sur­vivor — part of an ancient lin­eage that con­tin­ued to live here much longer than any­one knew. Sci­en­tists do not yet know where else it may have lived or whether ear­li­er forms of Homo nale­di lived here as well. It may have lived side-by-side with sev­er­al oth­er hominin species dur­ing the course of its existence.