Scientists have discovered fossils of a new human ancestor, Homo naledi, in Rising Star cave 30 miles outside of Johannesburg, South Africa. Their findings were recently published in the journal eLife.
H. naledi gives new insight to the evolution of the human family tree, as it shares traits with both modern humans and early hominids. As a profile of H. naledi in National Geographic explains, the discovery is due largely to chance and may not have happened if not for the skinny bodies of the researchers who were able to access parts of the Rising Star cave system that larger bodies would not have been able to reach.
The team has hypothesized that the fossils were so deep in the cave system because H. naledi was deliberately disposing of its dead, a trait that was previously thought to have started much later in human evolution.
image via National Geographic