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KU expert: Absence of date could be issue to resolve with Homo naledi discovery

Friday, September 11, 2015

LAWRENCE — A University of Kansas expert on Neanderthals and pre-human species is available to comment on the significance of skeletons discovered in Rising Star Cave in South Africa.

A group of international researchers published their findings this week about the excavation of more than 1,500 fossils said to represent about 15 ancient members of what is possibly a new kind of hominin, named the "Homo naledi." The scientists concluded the bones are from a previously unidentified species of early human lineage.

David Frayer, a KU professor emeritus of anthropology, worked with Davorka Radovčić of Croatia — one of the co-authors of the Rising Star Cave study — on a separate study earlier this year that found Neanderthals likely collected eagle talons to form jewelry.

Frayer said the Rising Star Cave discovery is significant because of the array of bones and complete or nearly complete bones found in the cave. He said scientists would continue to look at the bones and make comparisons with fossils of populations from other parts of the world to find a possible connection.

"A major problem is absence of any date. There is some rodent fauna and some bones from an owl, but they are not sure these and humans are contemporaries," Frayer said. "Without a date, it is difficult to be informed as to their taxonomic significance. But it must be early."

To interview Frayer, contact George Diepenbrock at gdiepenbrock@ku.edu or 785-864-8853.


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