Photo courtesy of Wits University/ John Hawks
Photo courtesy of Wits University/ John Hawks

MEDIA ALERT: Age of Homo naledi Revealed: 236,000 to 335,000 Years Old

After adding Homo naledi to the human family tree, researchers reveal that the species is younger than its bizarrely primitive body suggests.

 

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Almost a year and a half since a trove of hominin remains, including a new member of the human family tree, was first discovered by two cavers exploring South Africa’s Rising Star cave system, Homo naledi’s age has been confirmed.

In papers published Tuesday in eLife, the team—led by National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence Lee Berger—provides an age range for the remains first reported in 2015: between 236,000 and 335,000 years old. The team also describes a second chamber within Rising Star that contains yet-undated H. naledi remains.

If these dates hold, it could mean that while our own species was evolving from other, large-brained ancestors, a tiny-brained primitive shadow lineage was lingering on from a much earlier period, perhaps two million years ago or more. The proposed age range for the fossils also overlaps with the early Middle Stone Age, fueling a provocative, though unproven, possibility: that the stone-tool record in South Africa from that time wasn’t just the handiwork of anatomically modern humans.

Read more about this announcement here.

Additionally, ALMOST HUMAN: The Astonishing Tale of Homo naledi and the Discovery That Changed Our Human Story, Lee Berger’s incredible first-person account of that discovery—written with co-author and collaborator John Hawks—and a behind-the-scenes look at Berger’s life’s work, is being released today.

Lee Berger, National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence, is available for interviews out of South Africa.

John Hawks, Professor of Anthropology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and co-author of ALMOST HUMAN, is available for interviews out of South Africa.

Michael Greshko, National Geographic natural history and science reporter, is available for interviews out of Washington, D.C.

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Media Contacts:

Kelsey Taylor
National Geographic
kelsey.taylor@natgeo.com
202-912-6776

Anna Kukelhaus
National Geographic
anna.kukelhaus@natgeo.com
202-912-6724