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Homo naledi, recently discovered in Africa

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https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/world/2017/05/09/homo-nadeli-recently-discovered-africa-were-walking-around-humans/101458990/

 

Homo sapiens – that’s us and our direct ancestors, and long thought to be pretty much the only show in town for hundreds of thousands of years – had a rival cousin as recently as 236,000 years ago, according to South African scientists.

 

The species, Homo naledi, was discovered in caves near Johannesburg in 2013, and the researchers have now announced that some of the bones are less than a quarter of a million years old, which would mean that the primitive humans – who had much smaller brains than homo sapiens – were running around in Africa at the same time as our direct forebears.

 

And not only that, but Homo naledi also appear to have engaged in the relatively advanced practice of burying their dead.......

 

............ “This is a humbling discovery for science,” said Berger, a paleoanthropologist. “It's reminding us that the fossil record can hide things … we can never assume that what we have tells the whole story.”

 

...............The discoveries have encouraged other scientists to rethink human evolution.

 

Rick Potts, director of the Human Origins Program at the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of Natural History, told the Washington Post that the discovery should prompt people to question the familiar image of a stooped chimp-like creature evolving into an upright, modern human.

 

“We've had for so long this view that human evolution was a matter of inevitability represented by that march, that progress,” he told the paper. “But now that narrative of human evolution has become one of adaptability. There was a lot of evolution and extinction of populations and lineages that made it through some pretty tough times, and we're the beneficiary of that.”

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More and more cousins keep showing up!

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That the H. naledi were contemporary to H. sapiens is big news, yes, but it has been predicted we'd find H. naledi, or something similar. It is also predicted they will not be the last hominoid we find.  I've pre-ordered Berger's book, and can't wait to read what he has to say about the discovery and the conclusions. One question I want answered is what makes us so sure this is a different species? Has the DNA been sequenced, if there was recoverable DNA, or are there some morphologic markers that argue that?  Very exciting findings.    

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I believe it's morphological markers. The skull say's Homo but it still has a lot of Austrolopithecine features.

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This is an interesting discovery, first profiled in National Geographic a couple of years ago. The remains were discovered in a sealed cave that had been more of an open crevasse at the time H. naledi apparently used it as a repository for their dead. I wonder if burying their dead, which in this case evidently amounted to tossing the remains into a natural hole in the ground, may have been more related to keeping predators and/or scavengers away from the bodies in order to prevent them developing a taste for "human" flesh. There is certainly speculation that Bigfoot may bury or hide their dead.

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I don't entertain the we evolved from a monkey stuff, but these things burying any dead was most likely due to them not wanting to smell the nasty stuff.

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Started Berger's Almost Human last night, and I'm about 150 pages into it. He uses a nice narrative style, very accessible, which is kind of the theme behind how he chooses to conduct his field research and post-discovery work/publishing.   His point being: The unraveling of the Homo line is going to take a collaborative effort. Too long, he believes, major fossil finds have been jealously guarded in secret lest somebody's discovery get "scooped" by somebody else or (heaven forefend) somebody doesn't get sole credit for it. Berger believes doing good science in this field requires collaboration from the get-go. He makes a case that too many inter-disciplinary specialties are needed to accurately and competently analyze fossils to leave it to just a single individual, and sitting on a major find for a decade or more before publishing (it has happened) is just kind of whack. 

 

I can't help but draw some parallels between his ideal of collaborative science and how research is conducted in the BF arena. What's the old expression? It is amazing how much can be accomplished when nobody is too concerned with receiving credit for the work? Exactly.

 

Berger's discovery of the H. naledi specimens are a practice-what-you-preach moment for him, but not his first.  

 

Post Script:  Another salient point he makes is how clubby major scientific journals have gotten, and the accessibility to even read those requires membership, pay wall subscriptions, etc. It put me in mind of the Ketchum study. Whatever your thoughts are about the integrity of the work, you have to agree there was a bit of that  going on. These publications are fighting to maintain exclusivity in an increasingly open-sourced world. They will not go quietly either, much to our disadvantage.    

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I'm not so sure naledi isn't an australopithecine.  There is almost no physical marker that points in another direction.  Homo seems to rest entirely on the joint burial, falling once again into that very human trap of presuming "only humans do x."

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You may be right. I'm going to let him state his case though. He did pronounce A. sediba a non-homo species by the same analysis, although he lacked the possible cultural information to sway it the other way.  He did say though his opinion would have gone the other way if the foot morphology had been different.   

 

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Precisely what we all should do.  I always let the man on the ground sift and at least pronounce his conclusion.  It just stuck out to me that an animal that looked so non-Homo to me could get a Homo marker on precisely one piece of evidence, as accurate as it may be that if we find only one thing, and lots of it, on a site, we haven't found a presumptive perpetrator that isn't Homo.

 

Yet.

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Right. It is precisely this need to lay a genus and species on a hunk of rock that drives it. Labels matter and we can't help ourselves. I'd be happy with "Fossil #3" and just describe it. When #4 shows up, tell us how it is different. 

 

 

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I remember when I was a kid that it was presumed that every hominid fossil found was in a direct line of descent straight down to JFK. Two of them on the planet at the same time?  No way! Two of them HAVING SEX WITH EACH OTHER...?!?!? Name your time and weapon, sirrah...!

 

I'd rather wait until more pieces of the puzzle are in hand. Like with this "man in the Americas 100K earlier than previously thought!"  What, you thought the earliest evidence we had was the earliest there could possibly be?  What if they stopped by with only enough Happy Meals for a week, then, sayonara, on a boat built "100K earlier than previously thought!"  You know Mickey D wrappers DON'T FOSSILIZE SO GOOD, right...?

 

(And how do you know it wasn't Booger Fling, eh?)

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Posted (edited)

http://calgaryherald.com/entertainment/local-arts/lee-berger-to-share-fascination-with-hominids-at-national-geographic-live-presentation

 

https://phys.org/news/2016-04-hobbit-older-science-wiser.html

 

Two new events to do some deep thinking about!

 

Take away, I have teams in the field everyday of the week!

 

 

 

 

Edited by bipedalist
Go Field!
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Africa has two types of hominin cryptids, a large type like sasquatches and a smaller one sometimes called "Little Red Men."  Maybe this Homo naledi is an ancestor of these little red men since it was also really small and the remains are not all that ancient.

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