Homo Naledi: 5 Yr Update & New Findings (2021)

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In summary: First of all, thanks for summarizing all of this for us! In summary, the recent discovery of Homo naledi fossils has led to a lot of new research, including evidence of fire and rock engravings. It is unclear yet whether the fossils represent the remains of a dead individual or if they were purposely disposed of.
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BillTre
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I found this video by a guy involved with the ongoing cave work involved in further work on these interesting Homo fossils (Homo naledi). I think it is 5 years old. This is after the initial reports of their discovery. They found more stuff out.
There are a lot cave shots. Very tight places.
Some of these people look like worms going through holes.
There is also good explanation about what the fossils mean for our species's family tree and interesting stories of their discovery.


Then I found this more recent, related video. it is a good video in similar ways.
 
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  • #2
BillTre said:
There are a lot cave shots. Very tight places.
Indeed. The original article was what made me start looking into spelunking videos.
I quickly realized it wasn't for me when I felt like hyperventilating just watching someone else crawl through tight spaces. It's amazing that people thousands of years ago decided to crawl through a cave to bury their dead, especially with no flashlights or modern climbing equipment!
 
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  • #3
Drakkith said:
Indeed. The original article was what made me start looking into spelunking videos.
I quickly realized it wasn't for me when I felt like hyperventilating just watching someone else crawl through tight spaces. It's amazing that people thousands of years ago decided to crawl through a cave to bury their dead, especially with no flashlights or modern climbing equipment.

BillTre said:
I found this video by a guy involved with the ongoing cave work involved in further work on these interesting Homo fossils (Homo naledi). I think it is 5 years old. This is after the initial reports of their discovery. They found more stuff out.
There are a lot cave shots. Very tight places.
Some of these people look like worms going through holes.
There is also good explanation about what the fossils mean for our species's family tree and interesting stories of their discovery.


Then I found this more recent, related video. it is a good video in similar ways.

Great videos. I like the fact they put the data on free sites that could be used for three D printing.
 
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  • #4
Here is a recent update on the Homo naledi stuff:

Lee Berger who drives the research recently gave a talk about finding extensive evidence for fire in the cave system:


Here is a nice analysis of his talk and what it means for the study of these guys from someone going by the name of gutsick gibbon (?). Whatever, she does a nice job of discussing it all.


The naledi findings are the best collection of pre-human fossils by a long shot. More than all the pre-human findings from Africa combined, and there lots of cave areas not fully explored yet. It appears to be an area where a bunch of social interactions were taking place and were well preserved. There is going to be tons of new data to come out of all this.

Finding such good evidence for fire so well associated with H. nadeli is impressive, but Berger has hinted at three other not released results that he thinks will be more impressive.
  1. DNA?
  2. Tools?
  3. ???
 
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BillTre said:
The naledi findings are the best collection of pre-human fossils by a long shot. More than all the pre-human findings from Africa combined, and there lots of cave areas not fully explored yet.
That's absolutely incredible! What a find!
 
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  • #6
BillTre said:
Here is a nice analysis of his talk and what it means for the study of these guys from someone going by the name of gutsick gibbon (?). Whatever, she does a nice job of discussing it all.
Interesting, thanks. She first discusses the fire aspect at about 16:00 in the video. I didn't watch the whole thing, but do they have an idea about how the fires were created/built? Flint or similar to generate sparks?
 
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  • #7
berkeman said:
Interesting, thanks. She first discusses the fire aspect at about 16:00 in the video. I didn't watch the whole thing, but do they have an idea about how the fires were created/built? Flint or similar to generate sparks?
Not yet.
 
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  • #9
That is very strange I was just watching this lady on another channel first thing this morning talking about Human evolution!
Skeptalk

What a way to start the day!

Anyway,

I will have to watch all again to catch up.

I read an article on the below years ago and was interested on how they determined evidence of use of fire rather than the fact that they did.

At Wonderwerk cave which is west of the Rising cave looking at the location. Not too far though.

https://www.nature.com/articles/nature.2012.10372

There is a paper associated

https://www.pnas.org/doi/10.1073/pnas.1117620109
 
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  • #12
pinball1970 said:
Have you read the pre-prints? Apparently they have received negative peer reviews.
Some controversy over the timing of publication too.
There is a very good doc on Netflix, Cave of Bones, that presents their findings and provides extensive footage of how the deepest chamber is accessed. They make passing reference to sceptical responses. My impression is that we are watching the usual and appropriate give and take of researchers in the field-big claims need big evidence and serious critical review.
 
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  • #13
pinball1970 said:
Have you read the pre-prints? Apparently they have received negative peer reviews.
Some controversy over the timing of publication too.
I think that some anthropologists are rather contentions with each other. Not uncommon in science.
Based on what I have seen (like footage from the caves), it seems hard to seriously dispute claims that they had fires.
I could see timing being disputed, but it would be hard to dispute that these were intentional internments.

What disputes caught your eye?
 
  • #14
BillTre said:
I think that some anthropologists are rather contentions with each other. Not uncommon in science.
Based on what I have seen (like footage from the caves), it seems hard to seriously dispute claims that they had fires.
I could see timing being disputed, but it would be hard to dispute that these were intentional internments.

What disputes caught your eye?
I am catching up with all the info and timelines and I will post today. You can give me your view.
 
  • #15
Hi Bill,

My alert was via YT so I checked around and found this.

https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-023-02415-w#:~:text=25%20July%202023-,Sharp%20criticism%20of%20controversial%20ancient%2Dhuman%20claims%20tests%20eLife's%20revamped,reviewers%20say%20there's%20no%20evidence.

I have only looked at the first so far https://elifesciences.org/reviewed-preprints/89106#tab-content

Negative reviews, 4 in total for this paper.

None of the reviewers say that finds are anything less than very significant, they also do not say the claims are downright false.However, all 4 reviewers note similar points: Criticism of methods, reporting, lack of key citations, hard to follow, lack of controls, incomplete testing of the area, unable to repeat analytics (sediment, mineral composition)

One the biggest criticisms is alternative scenarios other than deliberate burial and have not been sufficiently investigated and ruled out.

Namely:

Funeral caching, basically dumping the bodies into a pit, not in a ritual sense, more of a removal from the living area (other animals do this)

Bodies washing into the pit via rain, floods, natural weathering of the area, Savaging and a few other scenarios.

All 4 reviews are in the link. @BillTre
 
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  • #16
pinball1970 said:
Funeral caching, basically dumping the bodies into a pit, not in a ritual sense, more of a removal from the living area (other animals do this)

Bodies washing into the pit via rain, floods, natural weathering of the area, Savaging and a few other scenarios.
I have not read your refs yet, but I thought these alternative explainations were pretty well ruled out by the circumstances particular bodies were found in.
There are cases that could not have resulted from these causes.

Time will tell on all these differences.
This (physical anthropology) seems to be a subject with a lot of emotion attached to it for some people.
For several years, the small Indonesian "Hobbit" people are claimed to be H. sapiens with disease condition.
 
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BillTre said:
@Klystron's post here on anthropology seems relevant to me.
The discussion points are centred around the physical from what I see from my limited knowledge.

Sediment composition and analysis, mineralogy, stratigraphy, coherence of skeletal remains, fossil articulation/disarticulation.

There seems to be little argument regarding the fossils themselves, ie the evolutionary placement of the fossils i.e. whether they Homo or not.

There are responses back to the reviewer from the authors so I will check all those and get back.

On a positive Christ Stringer said if this is correct, then this is ground-breaking, I do not think any of those experts, think otherwise.
 
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  • #20
Gustik Gibbon posted on this which is why I was initially asking the questions regarding the negative reviews.
I had forgotten that @berkeman and @BillTre had referenced her positively previously. (And me!)
One has to be careful with YouTube and similar sources but she just sits there and goes through the papers.

So to summarize, this is a review of the papers, peer review and response from the authors, Berger et al.

For a non scientist, this was heavy going even though I have read from the historical players (the Leakys, Stringer, Johansen) on this. A lot of interdisciplinary knowledge, scholarship and technology going on and the video is 2 hours 33 minutes.

I would not dare to just post the video so I have time stamped it.
I will post on the video too as I promised to do that.

The video is here.

0-5mins. Intro. The discovery of the fossils and caves. 2x dozen individuals, 300,000 years old, presentations, controversy.
8:00 Peer review, Elife process

19:55 BURIAL PRE PRINT
21:54 Peer review 1
38:22 Peer review 2
45:59 Peer review 3
57:28 Peer review 4

1:06:58 Summary. All negative.

1:08:09 CAVE ART PAPER
1:19:20 Peer review 1 (neutral)
1:21:20 Peer review 2
1:31:59 Peer review 3 (tool shaped comment)
1:38:52 Peer review 4

1:41:20 SMALL BRAIN PAPER
1:42:45 Peer review 1
1:44:04 Peer review 2 "perilous ramifications" "easier to introduce than correct."
1:46:42 Peer review 3

1:47:42 Summary 10 negative 1 neutral

1:48:36 Author response

2:15:00 Gustik discussion.
 
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  • #21
Drakkith said:
Indeed. The original article was what made me start looking into spelunking videos.
I quickly realized it wasn't for me when I felt like hyperventilating just watching someone else crawl through tight spaces. It's amazing that people thousands of years ago decided to crawl through a cave to bury their dead, especially with no flashlights or modern climbing equipment!
HI, how come they are convinced they were taken in there already dead and that they did not die actually in the chamber ?

Thanks
 
  • #22
hughesy124 said:
HI, how come they are convinced they were taken in there already dead and that they did not die actually in the chamber ?

Thanks
The video I posted above goes through those arguments given in the papers.
I have time stamped it, you will be interested from 19.55 onwards.

The alternatives besides your points are, dragged in by predators, washed in, got trapped when hiding or put there via what is called funeral cache.
The peer review criticism is that funeral caching (and other ways mentioned) have not been sufficiently ruled out.
 
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  • #23
hughesy124 said:
HI, how come they are convinced they were taken in there already dead and that they did not die actually in the chamber ?

Thanks
Just to add (and if you have time on your hands/are really interested) there is a break down of the paper Dr Flint Dibble on you tube who is referenced in the video above.

Also a discussion of the papers with Dr Dibble and two researchers in the field, one of which is one of the paper reviewers.

They time stamp the videos so you can zoom to the correct paper and discussion.

This paper was also referenced in the discussion, deliberate burial criteria.

https://d1wqtxts1xzle7.cloudfront.net/33092446/RDM_Burial_JHE-libre.pdf?1393499190=&response-content-disposition=inline;+filename=The_Roc_de_Marsal_Neandertal_child_A_rea.pdf&Expires=1699280409&Signature=aWoy8wN5ZW2mvckH8vP~ro09Ze3oUOoHBR53IIDA97~rs13Y8YyiSBDEMM7QPlAkuGlBQeqgxRiKoZpcGjOgIzs5KoTW2HfziWrh1--FHUhZ0fuEis~tSXIFBNVLmJven96QHIpU63-Sbq9bGPvEtnQBw~AE2MTk7nfGH9dSb6c7-1KxN2Mwgi80f3jNLLtRCq2YlNHgYA0E28qd7~4hL1-0NQUhy3ITCvIyLdnSZ~yC5ubAgyaMD~~-rQUfIU93HD5ebKPio8VHyjevmI~bpnBXW7eesIaaldOaVeqe~avXZs9afMZySX9qRwPU5tONvbkUFwsR7~GjFcwmaUKFxg__&Key-Pair-Id=APKAJLOHF5GGSLRBV4ZA
 
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Another installment on this story, after watching an update from Gustick (well done Erica on your candidacy!)

From the Journal of Human Evolution
Link here.
https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0047248423001434

Concluding remarks​

There is no convincing scientific evidence to indicate that H. naledi buried their dead and produced rock art in the Rising Star Cave system based on the information thus far presented. As explained here, the investigators have not employed the wide range of scientific methods (e.g., chronology, taphonomy, sedimentology, micromorphology, geochemistry) designed to answer the questions posed nor applied the basic principles of archeothanatology to identify a deliberate burial.
 
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Related to Homo Naledi: 5 Yr Update & New Findings (2021)

What new findings were revealed about Homo naledi in the recent update?

In the 2021 update on Homo naledi, scientists revealed additional fossil discoveries that included more skeletal parts, providing a clearer picture of the physical attributes and size variability among the population. Advanced dating techniques also offered more precise estimates of the age of the fossils, suggesting that Homo naledi lived between 236,000 and 335,000 years ago, which means they might have coexisted with early Homo sapiens.

How has the understanding of Homo naledi's behavior changed with new findings?

New evidence suggests that Homo naledi may have exhibited complex behaviors previously attributed only to species with larger brains. This includes potential deliberate disposal of the dead in remote cave chambers, which could indicate early forms of ritualistic or symbolic behavior. Additionally, the complexity of the cave system where the fossils were found hints that Homo naledi was capable of navigating through dark and difficult terrain.

What does the discovery of Homo naledi tell us about human evolution?

The discovery of Homo naledi challenges the traditional linear narrative of human evolution by presenting a more complex scenario with multiple species of early humans coexisting. It highlights the possibility of diverse evolutionary strategies and adaptations occurring in parallel. The morphological features of Homo naledi, a blend of primitive and modern traits, suggest that features like bipedalism and tool use might have evolved more than once or been more widespread among early hominins than previously thought.

Are there any new insights into the diet and lifestyle of Homo naledi?

While the 2021 updates have not extensively detailed the diet of Homo naledi, the morphology of their teeth and jaws suggests a diet that likely included hard, abrasive items, indicative of a foraging lifestyle that required a high degree of adaptability. The wear patterns on teeth and the robustness of the jaw support the idea that they could process a wide range of foods, which would be beneficial in a variable environment.

What are the implications of the new findings on the taxonomy and classification of Homo naledi within the Homo genus?

The new findings reinforce the classification of Homo naledi within the Homo genus, highlighting its unique combination of primitive and advanced traits. These discoveries continue to spark debates among scientists regarding the defining characteristics that separate species within the Homo genus and how these traits influence our understanding of human ancestry. The coexistence of Homo naledi with other Homo species also suggests a more intricate branching of the human family tree than previously understood.

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