The 85th Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (2016)


Geological and taphonomic context of excavations within the Rising Star cave system

MARINA C. ELLIOTT1,2, PAUL HGM. DIRKS1,3, LEE R. BERGER1, ERIC M. ROBERTS1,3, JAN D. KRAMERS4, JOHN HAWKS1,5, PATRICK S. RANDOLPH-QUINNEY1,6, CHARLES M. MUSIBA1,7, STEVEN E. CHURCHILL1,8, DARRYL J. DE RUITER1,9, PETER SCHMID1,10, LUCINDA R. BACKWELL1, GEORGY A. BELYANIN4, PEDRO BOSHOFF1, K LINDSDAY HUNTER1, ELEN M. FEUERRIEGEL1,11, ALIA GURTOV1,5, JAMES DU. G HARRISON12, RICK HUNTER1, ASHLEY KRUGER1, HANNAH MORRIS1 and BECCA PEIXOTTO1,13.

1Evolutionary Studies Institute, University of the Witwatersrand, 2Department of Archaeology, Simon Fraser University, 3Department of Earth and Oceans, James Cook University, 4Department of Geology, University of Johannesburg, 5Department of Anthropology, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 6School of Anatomical Sciences, University of the Witwatersrand, 7Department of Anthropology, University of Colorado Denver, 8Department of Evolutionary Anthropology, Duke University, 9Department of Anthropology, Texas A&M University, 10Anthropological Institute and Museum, University of Zurich, 11Anthropology & Archeology Department, Australian National University, 12School of Animal, Plant and Environmental Sciences, University of the Witwatersrand, 13Department of Anthropology, American University

April 16, 2016 8:00, Imperial Ballroom A Add to calendar

To date, over 1550 fossil specimens have been recovered from the Dinaledi Chamber within the Rising Star cave, South Africa. Cranial and postcranial remains of at least 15 individuals have been recovered and have been attributed to a novel species, Homo naledi. Only a small portion of the remains in the chamber have been collected, but all macro-vertebrate fossils are exclusively hominin. The fossil material occurs within clay-rich sediments derived from in situ weathering, and exogenous clay/silt which entered the chamber through fractures that prevented coarser-grained material from entering. Geological investigations suggest that the chamber was always in the dark zone, and inaccessible to other large mammals. Taphonomic analyses indicate that at least some of the individuals reached the chamber intact, with disarticulation occurring during/after deposition. Although dates are still pending, the hominin remains appear to have accumulated over a period of time as older mudstone units and sediment along the cave floor eroded out. This presentation introduces the geological setting of the Dinaledi Chamber within the Rising Star cave system, our excavation work, and reports on our ongoing efforts to understand the context of the fossil material.

DST-NRF Centre of Excellence in Palaeosciences, University of the Witwatersrand, National Geographic Society, National Research Foundation, Lyda Hill Foundation,Simon Fraser University, Australian Research Council (ARC)