Comment on "Deliberate body disposal by hominins in the Dinaledi Chamber, Cradle of Humankind, South Africa?"

Dirks, P.H.G.M., Berger, L.R., Hawks, J., Randolph-Qunney, P.S., Backwell, L.R., and Roberts, E.M. (2016) Comment on "Deliberate body disposal by hominins in the Dinaledi Chamber, Cradle of Humankind, South Africa?". Journal of Human Evolution , 96. pp. 149-153.

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[Extract] In responding to Val (2016), we welcome the opportunity to further clarify our interpretations of the taphonomic and geological context of Homo naledi in the Dinaledi Chamber of the Rising Star Cave as presented in Dirks et al. (2015). In so doing we want to state from the onset that, contrary to what is claimed in Val, 2016 and Dirks et al., 2015 do not reject mass mortality or death trap scenarios as possible explanations but, based on currently available evidence, consider deliberate body disposal to be the most plausible reason for the deposit. We also want to remind colleagues that the Dinaledi collection is accessible to researchers upon application. We are committed to promoting best scientific practice by making all data available for independent inspection, including observations on hominin remains, and broaden debate. We note that Val has not yet studied the collections directly or visited the cave, but has based her comment on re-interpretations of data presented in Dirks et al. (2015).

In reaching their conclusions, Dirks et al. (2015) collected data to test hypotheses known to explain other cave assemblages in South Africa (Brain, 1993, Clarke, 1994, deRuiter and Berger, 2000, Pickering et al., 2004, Kuhn et al., 2010, Dirks et al., 2010, Reynolds et al., 2011, Dirks and Berger, 2013 and Val et al., 2015). To account for the H. naledi deposits, a hypothesis must be consistent with all lines of evidence including geological, geochemical and taphonomic data. As such, the preferred hypothesis of Dirks et al. (2015) is based on a multi-disciplinary approach, and triangulated from multiple sources of evidence. In contrast, the fundamental point argued in Val (2016), i.e., that an alternative opening to the Dinaledi Chamber must have existed in the past, is based on incomplete taphonomic reasoning and does not consider geological constraints. The evidence presented in Dirks et al. (2015) and Berger et al. (2015) limits scenarios for hominin bone deposition in several important ways, which we review here.

Item ID: 47291
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1095-8606
Additional Information:

Comment on Val, A. (2016) Deliberate body disposal by hominins in the Dinaledi Chamber, Cradle of Humankind, South Africa? Journal of Human Evolution, 98, pp.145-148. DOI:10.1016/j.jhevol.2016.02.004

Funders: National Geographic Society, National Research Foundation, Lyda Hill Foundation, Australian Research Council (ARC), Palaeontological Scientific Trust (PAST)
Projects and Grants: ARC DP140104282
Date Deposited: 13 Apr 2017 00:26
FoR Codes: 37 EARTH SCIENCES > 3705 Geology > 370506 Palaeontology (incl. palynology) @ 75%
43 HISTORY, HERITAGE AND ARCHAEOLOGY > 4301 Archaeology > 430102 Archaeology of Asia, Africa and the Americas @ 25%
SEO Codes: 97 EXPANDING KNOWLEDGE > 970105 Expanding Knowledge in the Environmental Sciences @ 100%
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