Geological and taphonomic context for the new hominin species Homo naledi from the Dinaledi Chamber, South Africa

Dirks, Paul H.G.M., Berger, Lee R., Roberts, Eric M., Kramers, Jane D., Hawks, John, Quinney-Randolph, Patrick S., Elliott, Marina, Musiba, Charles M., Churchill, Steven E., de Ruiter, Darryl J., Schmid, Peter, Backwell, Lucinda R., Belyanin, Georgy A., Boshoff, Pedro, Hunter, K. Lindsay, Feuerriegel, Elen M., Gurtov, Alia, Harrison, James du G., Hunter, Rick, Kruger, Ashley, Morris, Hannah, Makhubela, Tebogo V., Peixotto, Becca, and Tucker, Steven (2015) Geological and taphonomic context for the new hominin species Homo naledi from the Dinaledi Chamber, South Africa. eLife, 4. pp. 1-37.

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Abstract

We describe the physical context of the Dinaledi Chamber within the Rising Star cave, South Africa, which contains the fossils of Homo naledi. Approximately 1550 specimens of hominin remains have been recovered from at least 15 individuals, representing a small portion of the total fossil content. Macro-vertebrate fossils are exclusively H. naledi, and occur within clay-rich sediments derived from in situ weathering, and exogenous clay and silt, which entered the chamber through fractures that prevented passage of coarser-grained material. The chamber was always in the dark zone, and not accessible to non-hominins. Bone taphonomy indicates that hominin individuals reached the chamber complete, with disarticulation occurring during/after deposition. Hominins accumulated over time as older laminated mudstone units and sediment along the cave floor were eroded. Preliminary evidence is consistent with deliberate body disposal in a single location, by a hominin species other than Homo sapiens, at an as-yet unknown date.

Item ID: 40462
Item Type: Article (Refereed Research - C1)
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© Copyright Dirks et al. This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use and redistribution provided that the original author and source are credited.

ISSN: 2050-084X
Funders: National Geographic Society, National Research Foundation, Lyda Hill Foundation, Australian Research Council (ARC)
Projects and Grants: ARC DP140104282
Date Deposited: 15 Sep 2015 02:14
FoR Codes: 04 EARTH SCIENCES > 0403 Geology > 040308 Palaeontology (incl Palynology) @ 50%
04 EARTH SCIENCES > 0403 Geology > 040310 Sedimentology @ 50%
SEO Codes: 97 EXPANDING KNOWLEDGE > 970104 Expanding Knowledge in the Earth Sciences @ 100%
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