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But now that narrative of human evolution has become one of adaptability.

There was a lot of evolution and extinction of populations and lineages that made it through some pretty tough times, and we're the beneficiary of that.” The original Homo naledi skeletons were discovered in 2013 in the Rising Star cave system, one of the twisted and branching limestone caverns that make up a World Heritage Site known as “the Cradle of Humankind.” This same 180-square-mile region in South Africa has yielded a number of 2-million-year-old Australopithecus fossils, but Homo naledi was the first species to fit in the genus Homo.

The Dinaledi (“star” in the Sesotho language) chamber, which contained the Naledi skeletons, was so narrow and difficult to access that Berger had to seek out an all-women team of petite, extremely agile spelunkers to excavate it.

What they found astonished the paleoanthropology community — not only had a new species been discovered but, with 15 skeletons, it was suddenly the best-documented species in the history of hominins.

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In a third paper, they argue that Naledi must be a long-lasting lineage that arose 2 million years ago during the early days of the genus Homo and somehow survived long enough to coexist with modern humans, who emerged about 200,000 years ago.

The Lesedi chamber also yielded some small animal fossils.

(The absence of nonhuman remains in Dinaledi was considered a strong piece of evidence that the hominins were placed in the cavern intentionally, rather than falling or wandering into the cave and then dying there.) might be the ones who put the bodies there.

The species' complicated anatomy and unexpected resilience raise a number of intriguing questions, they say: Was Naledi a result of, and perhaps a contributor to, hybridization within the Homo family tree?

Could Naledi be responsible for some of the stone tools found in South Africa during the period it was alive?

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