Davorka Radovcic And Mana Dembo Examining Skull At Rising Star Workshop

Davor­ka Radov­cic and Mana Dem­bo exam­in­ing a skull at the Ris­ing Star workshop

Through­out May 2014, over 60 sci­en­tists gath­ered to com­pare and describe the more than 1,550 fos­sils from the Dinale­di Cham­ber. Among these sci­en­tists were spe­cial­ists on near­ly every part of the human body. Almost every one of the 206 bones of the skele­ton were rep­re­sent­ed, often includ­ing many copies of each bone.

Through care­ful study and much dis­cus­sion, these spe­cial­ists con­clud­ed that they were look­ing at the remains of at least 15 indi­vid­u­als, male and female, from very young babies to an old adult and all ages in between. But the bones them­selves were like no hominin species any of them had ever seen before. 

The Ris­ing Star team chose a new name for this pre­vi­ous­ly unknown species: Homo nale­di. Homo” indi­cates that it was a com­par­a­tive­ly close rel­a­tive and reflects the over­all sim­i­lar­i­ties to our own genus, while nale­di” means star” in seSotho and refers to the orig­i­nal name of the cave where the bones were discovered. 

Naledi Hand Comparison Text

Hand com­par­i­son

Notice how the fin­ger bones of Homo nale­di (left) are more curved than the mod­ern human on the right. 

This Homo nale­di hand was found almost intact with only one bone miss­ing. Because the bones were in a posi­tion that showed the fin­gers had curled up into the palm, we know that the hand still had flesh when it was deposit­ed in the cave.