1Anthropology, Modesto College, 2Anthropology, Nazarbayev University, 3College of Veterinary Medicine, North Carolina State University, 4Evolutionary Anthropology, Duke University, 5School of Anthropology and Conservation, University of Kent, 6Human Evolution, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, 7School of Sport, Exercise & Health Sciences, Loughborough University, 8Anthropology, University of Wisconsin—Madison, 9School of Geosciences, University of the Witwatersrand, 10Evolutionary Studies Institute, University of the Witwatersrand
April 16, 2016 11:15, Imperial Ballroom A
The Rising Star cave in South Africa has uncovered more than 1550 fossil specimens of adult and immature cranial and post-cranial remains. The assemblage represents a single species, Homo naledi, and its collection in one chamber represents deliberate disposal of multiple individuals over generations. The Dinaledi collection includes 190 teeth. We determined a minimum (MNI) of 15 individuals by associating dental remains using standard approaches based on fitting occlusal and interproximal contact facets, identifying antimeres, and comparable stages of tooth development and attrition. We then developed age classes based on dental development and wear: infant, deciduous teeth only; young juvenile, first permanent molars erupted; old juvenile, second permanent molars erupted; sub-adult, third molars erupted but unworn; young adult, all permanent teeth erupted with moderate wear; old adult, all permanent teeth erupted with heavy wear. We assessed the life stage of each individual, yielding the following: three infants, three young juveniles, one old juvenile, one sub-adult, four young adults and one old adult; two individuals are of unknown age class. The Dinaledi sample represents individuals across all life stages and is striking in the large number of non-adult individuals represented in the collection. Additionally, the sample contrasts with most other large hominin assemblages, such as Australopithecus at the Hadar 333 locality, or late Homo at Sima de los Huesos and El Sidrón, in having a high proportion of juveniles. The Dinaledi assemblage offers an opportunity to explore the pattern of growth and development and possible social behaviors of Homo naledi.
National Geographic Society and the National Research Foundation provided funding of the discovery, recovery and analysis of this material. Further funding was provided by the University of Wisconsin-Madison.