8 Lesedi And Dinaledi Map
The Rising Star Cave system (Image: Wits University)

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.