How much do you know about Homo naledi?



9 Questions

What is the estimated age range of Homo naledi fossils?

What is the cranial capacity of Homo naledi compared to modern humans?

What is the unique feature of Homo naledi's teeth?

What is the estimated height and weight of Homo naledi individuals?

What is the likely behavior of Homo naledi based on their finger length?

What is the evidence of Homo naledi's ritualistic behavior?

What is the likely diet of Homo naledi based on their tooth anatomy?

What is the likely habitat of Homo naledi based on their anatomy?

What is the significance of Homo naledi in human evolution?


Small-brained South African archaic human

  • Homo naledi is an extinct species of archaic human discovered in 2013 in the Rising Star Cave, Cradle of Humankind, South Africa dating to the Middle Pleistocene 335,000–236,000 years ago.

  • They share several characteristics with the ancestral Australopithecus and early Homo as well (mosaic evolution), most notably a small cranial capacity of 465–610 cm3 (28.4–37.2 cu in), compared to 1,270–1,330 cm3 (78–81 cu in) in modern humans.

  • H. naledi brain anatomy seems to have been similar to contemporary Homo, which could indicate comparable cognitive complexity.

  • H. naledi anatomy indicates that, though they were capable of long-distance travel with a humanlike stride and gait, they were more arboreal than other Homo, better adapted to climbing and suspensory behaviour in trees than endurance running.

  • Tooth anatomy suggests consumption of gritty foods covered in particulates such as dust or dirt.

  • They appear to have been dextrous enough to produce and handle tools, and likely manufactured Early or Middle Stone Age industries.

  • In December 2022, suggestions that H. naledi used fire for light and cooking were reported.

  • The chamber had been entered at least once before, by cavers in the early 1990s. They rearranged some bones and may have caused further damage, although much of the floor in the chamber had not been walked on prior to 2013.

  • The fossils represent 737 anatomical elements – including the parts of the skull, jaw, ribs, teeth, limbs, and inner ear bones – from old, adult, young, and infantile individuals.

  • It is unclear whether they branched off at around the time of H. habilis, H. rudolfensis, and A. sediba; are a sister taxon to H. erectus and the contemporaneous large-brained Homo; or are a sister taxon to the descendants of H. heidelbergensis (modern humans and Neanderthals).

  • The H. naledi specimens are estimated to have, on average, stood around 143.6 cm (4 ft 9 in) and weighed 39.7 kg (88 lb).

  • Unlike modern humans and contemporary Homo, H. naledi lacks several accessory dental features, and has a high frequency of individuals who present main cusps, namely the metacone (midline on the tongue-side) and hypocone (to the right on the lip-side) on the 2nd and 3rd molars, and a Y-shaped hypoconulid (a ridge on the lip-side towards the cheek) on all three molars. Nonetheless, H. naledi also has many dental similarities with contemporary Homo.Summary of Homo Naledi

  • Homo naledi is a hominin species that lived between 335,000 and 236,000 years ago in South Africa.

  • The species has a mix of primitive and modern traits, including a small brain size and the ability to walk on two legs.

  • The fossils were found in the Rising Star Cave system, and there are at least 15 individuals represented.

  • The fossils show evidence of deliberate disposal of dead individuals, indicating potential ritualistic behavior.

  • The species likely lived in a cave system and had a unique diet, including consumption of gritty particles and small hard objects.

  • The individuals were likely preyed upon by large carnivores, but there is a paucity of carnivore remains from the area where the fossils were found.

  • The fingers of Homo naledi are proportionally longer than those of any other fossil hominin, suggesting climbing behavior.

  • The species had a benign tumor in the jaw and dental defects, which may have been caused by seasonal stressors.

  • Though no stone tools have been found with Homo naledi remains, the species likely produced Early or Middle Stone Age tools due to hand adaptations.

  • The foot of Homo naledi is similar to that of modern humans, but with a low orientation of the heel bone and ankle bone, possibly indicating a stiffer foot during walking.

  • There is debate about whether the individuals were deliberately buried or naturally deposited in the cave system.

  • The fossils provide important insights into human evolution and the diversity of human ancestors.


Test your knowledge on Homo naledi, the small-brained South African archaic human. Discover fascinating facts about this extinct species, including their unique mix of primitive and modern traits, cave-dwelling lifestyle, and potential ritualistic behavior. Learn about their diet, potential predators, and hand adaptations for tool-making. Challenge yourself with questions on their brain size, gait, and evolutionary relationships. Take this quiz to become an expert on Homo naledi and gain a deeper understanding of human evolution

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