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Digital Subscriptions > Skeptic > 22.3 > Big News on Homo naledi

Big News on Homo naledi

More Fossils and a Surprising Young Age

In September of 2015, scientists at the University of Witwatersrand, led by Dr. Lee Berger, made a bombshell announcement. Not only had a new species of hominin been discovered, but the find contained more than 1500 fossils from at least 15 individuals. The remains were found all in one place, a deep dark cave in South Africa. This was, by far, the largest number of fossils ever found in one place in the history of paleoanthropology. In one fell swoop, Homo naledi went from being completely unknown to science to being one of the most fully described hominins ever. Although no age was given to the fossils at the time, speculation was rampant.

Over the last few months, the paleoanthropology community has been abuzz with rumors that more H. naledi fossils had been found and that the age of the fossils had been determined. On May 9th, a large team of scientists, again led by Berger, confirmed the rumors and made two big announcements regarding this enigmatic species. First, a second cave had been found harboring more H. naledi skeletal remains. That, and even more dramatically, the dating effort from the original fossil find revealed that the fossils are much younger than previously thought, a mere 300,000 years old.

The results are released in three papers in the journal eLife, published by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, which was also the venue for the first publication of Homo naledi in 2015. Both of these announcements have astounding and far-reaching implications. A couple of days before the press conference, I caught up with Lee Berger to ask him what all this means.

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SPECIAL ISSUE: Did a Mysterious Unknown Advanced Civilization Help Ancient Peoples Build Their Monuments? SPECIAL SECTION — EVALUATING THE EVIDENCE FOR AN ADVANCED LOST CIVILIZATION: Debating Science and Lost Civilizations: My Experience on the Joe Rogan Experience by Michael Shermer; Conjuring Up a Lost Civilization: An Analysis of the Claims Made by Graham Hancock in Magicians of the Gods by Marc Defant; Lost Civilizations and Imaginative Conjectures: An Analysis of the Myths and History of Graham Hancock’s Magicians of the Gods by Tim Callahan. SPECIAL SECTION — AN ACADEMIC HOAX: Failure to Communicate: Why We Published the “Conceptual Penis as a Social Construct” Hoax Exposé by Michael Shermer; The Conceptual Penis as a Social Construct: A Sokal-Style Hoax on Gender Studies by Peter Boghossian (aka Peter Boyle, Ed.D.) and James Lindsay (aka, Jamie Lindsay, Ph.D.); More Fashionable Nonsense Some thoughts on “The Conceptual Penis as a Social Construct” Hoax by Alan Sokal. ARTICLES: Big News on Homo naledi: More Fossils and a Surprising Young Age by Nathan H. Lents; The Real Origin of UFOs and Aliens: How the Media Shaped Our Ideas About Extraterrestrials by Tim Callahan; Publicly Funded Stem Cell Research: California’s $3-Billion Experiment in Public Science by Raymond Barglow; How to Tame a Fox and Build a Dog by Lee Dugatkin and Lyudmila Trut; Science, Facts, and “Provisional” Knowledge by David Zeigler. COLUMNS: The SkepDoc: Juicing for Health or Torture by Harriet Hall, M.D. The Gadfly: Our Angry Era by Carol Tavris. JUNIOR SKEPTIC: Zombies: The Gruesome True Story of Zombies by Daniel Loxton
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