Cool Kid on campus: Homo Naledi

The discovery and existence of Homo Naledi has shed light on the origins and diversity of the human lineage. Initially discovered in 2013 in the ‘Rising Star’ cave located in the Cradle of Human World Heritage site, the official reveal was held at Maropeng Centre by the team led by Wits Professor Lee Berger.

Wits Vuvuzela sat down with Homo Naledi to catch up on some of the history of the last 2.5 million years.  

Photo: File

                                                                                                                                   Photo: File


Many people are fascinated by your name. Can you tell us the meaning behind it?

The name ‘Naledi’ means ‘star’ in Sesotho. The scientists are saying that my bones were ‘found’ in a chamber cave (my lofty home) named ‘Dinaledi’ at the Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site. Also, seeing that I am causing many talks in the media, I consider myself a ‘rising star’.

It must be really great to be found after a 2.5 million year hiatus. What’s it like mingling with all your grandchildren?

My long sleep was so peaceful. So much has changed now. I mean what’s this wheel thing that everyone has been using for the last 10 000 years? Other than that it’s good to be getting all this media attention, and it’s been good giving humans something to talk about, other than themselves.

Speaking of the media, #HomoNaledi was trending on twitter. How was that experience?

To grab such attention from humans was nothing short of amazing. Although I knew I always had it in me, I mean have you seen me? But grabbing such attention after a marathon 2.5 million year game of hide and seek is really fun. I am warming up to the reception.

You have been described as the most primitive member of our kind. Any thoughts on that?

First of all, have you seen my slender body? I am 1.5 metres tall and I weigh about 45 kilograms. I am said to have ‘human-like features’, my carved fingers, my teeth and my small feet, and my legs are to die for. All I’m saying is that I am flawless, like Beyoncé would say.

Your facial expression has been used for quite a lot of memes on social media, your thoughts about that?

I think it’s hilarious, as long as I am giving humans something to laugh about.

New species of human relatives found at the Cradle of Humankind

A new species of human relatives has been revealed at the Maropeng Centre at the Cradle of Humankind World Heritage site today.

The discovery of the fossils representing the new species, Homo naledi, was made last November but was officially announced today at the Cradle of Humankind, by the team led by Wits University’s Professor Lee Berger.

The species is named after the Dinaledi chamber (Chamber of stars) in which the 15 individual fossils were discovered near Johannesburg. The discovery is remarkable in that it shows that Homo naledi “appears to have intentionally deposited bodies of its dead in a remote cave chamber, a behaviour previously thought limited to humans”, according to a site dedicated to the find

Berger said Homo naledi is the largest assemblage of human ancestor fossils ever discovered in Africa, and that the fossils appeared to have skulls, feet and hands with the same elements as humans. 

South African deputy president, Cyril Ramaphosa said this discovery shows that humans are bound together by a common ancestry despite their differences. He thanked scientists for continuing to give solutions to the modern world, “These men and women of science, we applaud them and thank them for the visions of what makes us who we are, where we have come from and where we are capable of going. Today we unearth our past. We also unearth knowledge about our present.”

Vice chancellor Professor Adam Habib said it is crucial to have this discovery in the world where “we are killing each other and forget that we come from one humankind”. “What we are announcing today is the discovery that establishes the scientific foundation for common humanity.”