In , a bounty of fossils was discovered deep in a South African cave. They were identified as a new human species with a surprising combination of features. Human evolution expert Prof Chris Stringer outlines some of the mysteries and contradictions presented by Homo naledi , and the fascinating possibilities it raises. The discovery of hundreds of Homo naledi fossils was the largest such find ever made on the African continent. The fossils display a unique mix of modern and archaic traits and are shaking up our understanding of the origins and diversity of our human lineage.
Reconstructions of Homo erectus based on fossils from different locations. There is a lot of variety between individuals, which may be accounted for by the species having existed for so long and over such a wide area. The extinct ancient human Homo erectus is a species of firsts. It was the first of our relatives to have human-like body proportions, with shorter arms and longer legs relative to its torso. It was also the first known hominin to migrate out of Africa, and possibly the first to cook food. Reconstruction of Turkana Boy, the approximately 1. He was only about nine years old and already 1.
The most famous Homo erectus find is the 'Turkana Boy', a young male discovered in Kenya in His reconstructed skeleton - with a narrow pelvis and tall, thin body - is interpreted as showing adaptation to the hot climate and the need to run long distances. In comparison, this new find is from a shorter female with a wider chest - a feature more commonly found now in humans from colder, even Arctic climates. The wide pelvis suggests the birth canal and brain size were co-evolving, as H.
The new reconstruction of Zhoukoudian Choukoutien Homo erectus was created from the comprehensive first generation casts housed at the American Museum of Natural History. These excellent, highly detailed casts were prepared by Dr. Franz Weidenreich and his colleagues just prior to the tragic loss of the original fossils during WWII. These casts, the reference set of which were officially presented to the American Museum of Natural History in , are all that remains of the original Zhoukoudian fossil humans.