- Naledi Fossils
New Human Ancestor Elicits Awe—and Many Questions
Fossils of Homo naledi are an amazing discovery, experts say, but their scientific value remains in limbo until we know how old they are.
Scientists reacted with a mix of awe and exasperation to the news Thursday of the discovery of fossils in South Africa that are said to define a new species of human ancestor, Homo naledi. The awe was inspired mostly by the sheer number of fossils—more than 1,500 bones, all of them from a remote chamber in the cave system called Rising Star, 30 miles northwest of Johannesburg.
“It’s a stunning collection of bones, unlike any we’ve seen before,” said Carol Ward, a paleoanthropologist at the School of Medicine at the University of Missouri.
Like other scientists, however, Ward tempered her enthusiasm with frustration at the discovery team’s decision to publish before more information could be gathered—most importantly, on the age of