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Two African sites and the never-ending story of Human evolution

Bodhisattva Sen Roy @insenroy

Updated: October 28, 2015, 3:54 PM IST
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Two African sites and the never-ending story of Human evolution
In the deepest recesses of the Rising Star Cave System in South Africa’s Gauteng province lay scattered the skeletal remains of at least 15 individuals.
As Rick Hunter and Steven Tucker maneuvered their way through a tricky cave system, they did not expect to find anything of much importance, let alone the remains of an hitherto undescribed hominid. In the deepest recesses of the Rising Star Cave System in South Africa’s Gauteng province lay scattered the skeletal remains of at least 15 individuals.

Two years of rigorous documentation and analysis later it was revealed that the remains belong to a species of extinct hominid. The 47-member team decided to call it the Homo naledi.The adult males stood 5 feet tall and weighed around 45 kgs. Their skeletons, and particularly the pelvic bones indicate that they were bipedal and walked upright. Anthropologists think that the remains discovered in the cave chamber were deliberately placed there after death, which points to a complex social structure. This idea, however, has been contested by other anthropologists.

homo-naledi-discovery-vin

The Rising Star Cave System is, somewhat appropriately perhaps, a part of the Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site. Further north in the continent often described as the birthplace of humanity is another site integral to human evolution and the study thereof.

The Olduvai Gorge is a tiny ravine in the Rift Valley region of Tanzania. This is where Mary and Louis Leakey made their path-breaking discoveries of hominid fossils thus advancing the study of human evolution in leaps and bounds. The site is remarkable in that it was home to successive species of hominids right from the early Homo Habilis, to the Homo erectus and finally Homo sapiens.

It was also here that the Leakeys observed societal development among pre-humans.Beds of stone tools were discovered, along with some of the earliest evidences of hunting and scavenging.

The discovery of Homo naledi notwithstanding, the entire story of human evolution is nowhere near complete. While we wait for the gaps to be filled in and the missing link to materialise, here is an interesting video detailing the evolution of the human face in the last 6 million years:

The evolution of human faces in the last 6 million years

Posted by Mak Titus Callahan on Tuesday, 20 October 2015

First Published: October 28, 2015, 3:48 PM IST

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