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Thread: Ancient Hominids Found in Cradle of Humankind WHS, SA

  1. #21
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    ^ If the critics actually read the paper and watched the Nat. Geo. documentary, they might have realized that Lee Berger had damn good reasons for doing what he did. The paper clearly mentions that the Dinaledi Cave was frequently visited by local cavers, and evidence existed that amateurs (non-archaeologists) had entered the shaft of interest many years previous, indicated by the freshly broken bones seen in the photographs sent by the amateur discovers who initially notified Prof. Berger.

    [The fact that the bones were extremely fragile suggests that the usual fossilization process - the replacement of osseous tissues by harder minerals under pressure - did not occur.]

    Accelerating the expedition was absolutely necessary to avoid further destruction of the artifacts, since the site couldn't be secured or kept secret, and waiting 2 to 15 years for old-school peer-review is simply not a viable option now.
    Last edited by VinceT; 10-26-2015 at 02:38 AM.

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  3. #22
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    The traditional approach is to keep the data secret for 10 or more years before even submitting it for peer review. That is the really remarkable and wonderful thing that Lee Berger is doing - making the data available to anyone rather than keeping it secret, even though that means others might scoop him on some publications. He gives up the personal benefit of control of the data so that the science can advance the science more rapidly.

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  5. #23
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    Here is an update from John Hawks on the Homo naledi research. The open access and outreach to young researchers is just amazing, a real revolution in the way science can be done.

    From the link: "We were able to report that we are working on determining the geological age of the fossil deposit, applying techniques that can be used to date the site’s flowstones (sheetlike formations of calcite that grow where water flows down walls or floors in caves). We are also using some destructive mechanisms to examine the bones and teeth themselves. Developing the chronology is a difficult undertaking, and we are committed to being cautious as we proceed."
    Last edited by GailT; 06-26-2016 at 05:13 AM.

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  7. #24
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    And here we have the publication of several papers on Homo naledi

    https://elife.elifesciences.org/

    John Hawks et al., New fossil remains of Homo naledi from the Lesedi Chamber, South Africa

    The Rising Star cave system has produced abundant fossil hominin remains within the Dinaledi Chamber, representing a minimum of 15 individuals attributed to Homo naledi. Further exploration led to the discovery of hominin material, now comprising 131 hominin specimens, within a second chamber, the Lesedi Chamber. The Lesedi Chamber is far separated from the Dinaledi Chamber within the Rising Star cave system, and represents a second depositional context for hominin remains. In each of three collection areas within the Lesedi Chamber, diagnostic skeletal material allows a clear attribution to H. naledi. Both adult and immature material is present. The hominin remains represent at least three individuals based upon duplication of elements, but more individuals are likely present based upon the spatial context. The most significant specimen is the near-complete cranium of a large individual, designated LES1, with an endocranial volume of approximately 610 ml and associated postcranial remains. The Lesedi Chamber skeletal sample extends our knowledge of the morphology and variation of H. naledi, and evidence of H. naledi from both recovery localities shows a consistent pattern of differentiation from other hominin species.
    Paul HGM Dirks et al, The age of Homo naledi and associated sediments in the Rising Star Cave, South Africa

    New ages for flowstone, sediments and fossil bones from the Dinaledi Chamber are presented. We combined optically stimulated luminescence dating of sediments with U-Th and palaeomagnetic analyses of flowstones to establish that all sediments containing Homo naledi fossils can be allocated to a single stratigraphic entity (sub-unit 3b), interpreted to be deposited between 236 ka and 414 ka. This result has been confirmed independently by dating three H. naledi teeth with combined U-series and electron spin resonance (US-ESR) dating. Two dating scenarios for the fossils were tested by varying the assumed levels of 222Rn loss in the encasing sediments: a maximum age scenario provides an average age for the two least altered fossil teeth of 253 +82/–70 ka, whilst a minimum age scenario yields an average age of 200 +70/–61 ka. We consider the maximum age scenario to more closely reflect conditions in the cave, and therefore, the true age of the fossils. By combining the US-ESR maximum age estimate obtained from the teeth, with the U-Th age for the oldest flowstone overlying Homo naledi fossils, we have constrained the depositional age of Homo naledi to a period between 236 ka and 335 ka. These age results demonstrate that a morphologically primitive hominin, Homo naledi, survived into the later parts of the Pleistocene in Africa, and indicate a much younger age for the Homo naledi fossils than have previously been hypothesized based on their morphology.
    Lee R. Berger et al., Homo naledi and Pleistocene hominin evolution in subequatorial Africa

    New discoveries and dating of fossil remains from the Rising Star cave system, Cradle of Humankind, South Africa, have strong implications for our understanding of Pleistocene human evolution in Africa. Direct dating of Homo naledi fossils from the Dinaledi Chamber (Berger et al., 2015) shows that they were deposited between about 236 ka and 335 ka (Dirks et al., 2017), placing H. naledi in the later Middle Pleistocene. Hawks and colleagues (Hawks et al., 2017) report the discovery of a second chamber within the Rising Star system (Dirks et al., 2015) that contains H. naledi remains. Previously, only large-brained modern humans or their close relatives had been demonstrated to exist at this late time in Africa, but the fossil evidence for any hominins in subequatorial Africa was very sparse. It is now evident that a diversity of hominin lineages existed in this region, with some divergent lineages contributing DNA to living humans and at least H. naledi representing a survivor from the earliest stages of diversification within Homo. The existence of a diverse array of hominins in subequatorial comports with our present knowledge of diversity across other savanna-adapted species, as well as with palaeoclimate and paleoenvironmental data. H. naledi casts the fossil and archaeological records into a new light, as we cannot exclude that this lineage was responsible for the production of Acheulean or Middle Stone Age tool industries.
    Last edited by Jean M; 05-09-2017 at 04:56 PM.

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  9. #25
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    Updates from John Hawks on the most recent excavations at the Rising Star cave system.

    Discovering more fossil material back into the tiny passages behind and to the sides of the chamber tells us something that we didn’t know before. Hominin material now is separated by up to 30 meters within the overall Dinaledi Chamber area, within some of the most improbable places. As we move forward, we will be looking for more ways to test hypotheses about how this extraordinary distribution of material could have arisen. Obviously one idea is that H. naledi may entered the Dinaledi Chamber alive, remarkable as that seems. But we aren’t ruling anything out.

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