Ancient Human Fossils Found in African Cave Astonish Scientists, Reflect Intentional Burial

635774192580235042-06-ngm-1015-MM8345-mystery-man-robert-clarkThe two amateur cavers had to feel their way along the cave’s winding passages, crawl on their stomachs through an opening less than 10 inches high, ascend a jagged wall, cross a narrow ledge dubbed the “Dragon’s Back,” and make a 400-foot descent, sideways, through a vertical crack before finally arriving at the prize: a 30-foot-long chamber probably between 2 million and 3 million years old.

American paleoanthropologist Lee Berger had asked the men to keep their eyes open for fossils, though the well-explored cave at the Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site in South Africa had given up most of its treasures decades ago.

What they found in September 2013 nearly took their breath away: fossil fragments of a relative of the human species, and a cache of bones and teeth buried in ancient clay that would eventually number more than 1,500 — the largest hominin fossil discovery of its kind in Africa. . .

Although the fragments have not yet been dated, the scientists said they could well represent one of the most primitive members of the genus Homo, which includes today’s humans.

Perhaps more remarkable, they added, was that the pieces belonged to at least 15 individuals of the same species — men, women, children and infants — and all of them appeared to have been deliberately placed there after death. The implication was as astonishing as the initial discovery: It suggested the ritualized disposal of bodies. (Read more from “Ancient Human Fossils Found in African Cave Astonish Scientists” HERE)

Follow Joe Miller on Twitter HERE and Facebook HERE.