Homo naledi on its way to Copenhagen?

Homo naledi is a mysterious human relative that lived in South Africa about 300,000 years ago. It had a mix of primitive and modern features, such as a small brain, a human-like foot, and complex social behavior. It also had a unique way of disposing of its dead: it deliberately carried them into a deep, dark cave chamber, where they accumulated over time.

This chamber, called Dinaledi, was discovered in 2013 by a team of scientists led by Professor Lee Berger from the University of the Witwatersrand. Since then, more than 1,500 fossils belonging to at least 15 individuals of Homo naledi have been recovered from the site. But there is still much we still need to learn about this fascinating species.

That’s why Professor Berger recently flew to Copenhagen, Denmark, to conduct some tests on some of the Homo naledi fossils. He hopes to find out more about their genetics, their diet, their health, and their relationship to other human ancestors.

Copenhagen is home to one of the world’s leading laboratories for ancient DNA analysis. Here, researchers have successfully extracted genetic material from 800,000-year-old fossils of Homo antecessor, another extinct human relative in Europe.

If they can do the same for Homo naledi, it would be a breakthrough for paleoanthropology. It would allow us to compare the DNA of Homo naledi with that of other human species, such as Neanderthals, Denisovans, and modern humans. It would also help us answer some of the big questions about Homo naledi: Where did it come from? How did it evolve? Did it interbreed with other humans? How did it survive in a changing environment?

Dr. Berger will collaborate with experts from the Globe Institute at the University of Copenhagen. This institute has a state-of-the-art laboratory specializing in ancient DNA and proteomics, which studies proteins. The researchers there have successfully extracted DNA and proteins from other ancient human fossils, such as Homo antecessor, which lived about 800,000 years ago in Spain.

By applying the same techniques to Homo naledi fossils, Berger hopes to learn more about their origins and evolution. For example, he wants to know if Homo naledi interbred with other human species, such as Homo sapiens or Neanderthals. He also wants to know if Homo naledi had any unique adaptations or behaviors that set them apart from other humans.

The results of these tests are not yet available, but they could reveal new insights into one of the most intriguing members of our family tree. It is a fascinating time to be involved in paleoanthropology, as new discoveries and technologies constantly expand our knowledge of our past.

But extracting ancient DNA takes work. It requires careful handling of the fossils, avoiding contamination from modern DNA, and using sophisticated techniques to amplify and sequence the tiny fragments of DNA that may remain in the bones.

We will have to wait for more information from Professor Berger and his colleagues, but it is an inspiring time to be involved in paleoanthropology. Homo naledi challenges our understanding of human evolution and diversity and reveals new aspects of our shared history.


– I was part of the team that found the Homo naledi child’s skull: how we did it (https://theconversation.com/i-was-part-of-the-team-that-found-the-homo-naledi-childs-skull-how-we-did-it-171153)

– Cave Explorers Find New Fossils of Mysterious Human Relative (https://www.nationalgeographic.com/adventure/article/ancient-humans-homo-naledi-lee-berger-paleontology-science)

Published by sethchagi

I am a Paleoanthropology Student, so far with two degrees, in Anthropology and Human Behavioral Science, pursuing my B.A and then my PhD I love to read (like a lot) and write, I love my family, and I adore anthropology! Remember, never stop exploring and never stop learning! There is always more to learn!

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