Our ancient ancestors could have shared the Earth with another ancient human species, Homo naledi, according to a global team of 20 scientists.
Since its discovery in 2013, Homo naledi has been estimated to be between 900,000 and 2.5 million years old.
But La Trobe University’s Professor Andy Herries and his fellow scientists have discovered the Homo naledi skeletons are only 236,000 to 335,000 years old — meaning they were around at the same time as the first Homo sapiens.
“It is extraordinary to find such an archaic looking human species that is so recent,” said Professor Herries.
“These findings change our view of how human evolution works and progressed.”
“They show that in many parts of the world our ancestors (early Homo sapiens) would have overlapped with these other human species and come into direct competition with them for land and resources.”
The only other example of this is the ‘hobbit’ or Homo floresiensis, discovered on the Indonesian island of Flores about 15 years ago.
“Around 25,000 years ago, we shared [Earth] with Neanderthals, with whom we are known to have interbred. Around 50,000 years ago the Denisovans also bred with our ancestors, and 75,000 years ago the ‘hobbit’ still lived in Indonesia,” Professor Herries said.
“Now we know that another archaic species lived alongside our ancestors in their home continent, Africa. So while Homo naledi is not our direct ancestor, it could be part of our story in the way Denisovans and Neanderthals are.”
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