21 June 2024 The Future is the Product of the Past

Paleontologists say world’s oldest-known burial site found in South Africa

American explorer and scientist Lee Berger in South Africa said they have found the oldest-known burial site in the world, containing remains of a small-brained distant relative of humans previously thought incapable of complex behavior.

However, the scientist announced the discovery of a non-human species that uses symbols to mark their dead.

The researcher announced on Monday that he had evidence that Homo Naledi, a species with a brain the size of a chimpanzee, buried its dead and painted symbols on the walls of the tombs between 200,000 and 300,000 BC.

Researchers said they found the discovery buried about 30 meters (100 feet) below ground in a cave system at the Cradle of Humanity, a UNESCO world heritage site near Johannesburg.

“These are the most ancient interments yet recorded in the hominin record, earlier than evidence of Homo sapiens interments by at least 100,000 years,” the scientists wrote in a series of preprint papers, yet to be peer-reviewed, to be published in Life.

Paleontologist Lee Berger
Paleontologist Lee Berger . Photo: Profleeberger

The findings cast doubt on the conventional wisdom regarding human evolution, which holds that the growth of larger brains enabled the performance of complex, “meaning-making” activities like burying the dead.

The oldest burials previously unearthed, found in the Middle East and Africa, contained the remains of Homo sapiens — and were around 100,000 years old.

“We are going to tell the world that we have discovered a non-human species, that had fire and controlled it, and went into incredibly difficult-to-reach spaces, and buried its dead in a ritual fashion, over and over and over again. And while they were doing that, they carved symbols on the wall above it”, said paleontologist Lee Berger.

Some experts however remain “sceptical” of his theory and require exceptional evidence to validate Berger’s claims.

Rising Star cave.
Rising Star Cave.

In 2013, Lee Berger discovered the richest deposit of hominid fossils in Africa and introduced the world to Homo Naledi. This species discovered by Dr. Berger had already upended the notion that our evolutionary path was a straight line, with curved fingers and toes, tool-wielding hands, and walking feet. Homo naledi is named after the “Rising Star” cave system where the first bones were found.

The holes, which researchers say evidence suggests were deliberately dug and then filled in to cover the bodies, contain at least five individuals. The oval-shaped interments at the center of the new studies were also found there during excavations started in 2018.

“That would mean not only are humans not unique in the development of symbolic practices, but may not have even invented such behaviours,” Berger told AFP in an interview.

The burial site is not the only sign that Homo naledi was capable of complex emotional and cognitive behavior, engravings forming geometrical shapes, including a “rough hashtag figure”, were also found on the apparently purposely smoothed surfaces of a cave pillar nearby.

Cover Photo: Viator

Related Articles

2,300-year-old Buddhist temple discovered in Pakistan

23 December 2021

23 December 2021

Remains of a 2300 years old Buddhist Temple have been discovered in Northwest Pakistan by a joint team of Pakistani...

8,000-year-old Yarmukian ‘Mother Goddess’ figurine discovered in Israel

9 July 2022

9 July 2022

An 8,000-year-old Yarmukian Mother Goddess figurine was found at Sha’ar HaGolan archaeological site, located on the northern bank of the...

Deadly 7.7 quakes hit Turkey destroys historical Gaziantep Castle

6 February 2023

6 February 2023

A deadly 7.7 magnitude earthquake that rocked the southern province of Kahramanmaraş, with tremors felt in the neighboring provinces, has...

Collectors In The Prehistoric World Recycled Old Stone Tools To Preserve The Memory Of Their Ancestors

16 March 2022

16 March 2022

A first-of-its-kind study at Tel Aviv University asks what drove prehistoric humans to collect and recycle flint tools that had...

The largest marine turtle fossil of its kind ever discovered in Europe unearthed in Spain

21 November 2022

21 November 2022

In northern Spain, scientists discovered the remains of a new species of enormous marine turtle. The prehistoric creature is the...

A metal detectorist unearthed a Roman silver “ligula” or “Toilet Spoon” in Wales

30 January 2024

30 January 2024

A metal detectorist in Wales unearthed a Roman silver “ligula”, commonly known as a “toilet spoon”. The discovery, made in...

New Archaeological Discoveries in Abu Dhabi shed light on Umm an-Nar Bronze Age culture (2700-2000 BCE)

1 February 2024

1 February 2024

New findings demonstrate the resilience and inventiveness of local Bronze Age societies (Umm an-Nar Bronze Age culture), as well as...

5,200-year-old stone carving silkworm chrysalis discovered in north China

19 July 2022

19 July 2022

According to the provincial archaeological research institute, archaeologists discovered a stone-carved silkworm chrysalis dating back at least 5,200 years in...

Medieval double grave discovered with majestic objects inside the circular ditch

22 August 2022

22 August 2022

An early medieval double grave was discovered in Kirchheim am Neckar Friedrichstrasse, southern Germany, during excavations supervised by the State...

The Mysterious Origins of the Cerne Abbas Giant Finally Revealed

3 January 2024

3 January 2024

There’s a huge chalk image of a man with a powerful erection and no clothes on his butt located in...

Southeast Asia’s oldest stringed instrument may be a 2,000-year-old antler

21 February 2023

21 February 2023

Archaeologists unearth a 2,000-year-old stringed instrument made from deer antler in southern Vietnam. This unusual deer antler may be one...

Archeologists discovered a treasure trove at the bottom of an ancient Roman bathhouse drain near Hadrian’s Wall

1 February 2023

1 February 2023

Archeologists in Carlisle, England, discovered a treasure trove at the bottom of the drain system of an ancient Roman bathhouse...

Ancient eggshell in the Northern Cape hiding 300,000 years of history

12 July 2021

12 July 2021

Evidence from an ancient eggshell has revealed important new information about the extreme climate change faced by human early ancestors....

Four-face ivory dice found at Keezhadi excavation site in India

18 February 2022

18 February 2022

The Tamil Nadu Archaeological department along with the Archaeological Survey of India has unearthed rectangular ivory dice,  in the excavation...

Ancient Greeks Built a Road to Haul Cargo Overland: The Father of the Railway: Diolkos

6 May 2024

6 May 2024

The Diolkos, an ambitious road that crossed the entire Isthmus of Corinth and was partially paved with stone, was built...