Lee: "We have dated Homo naledi. It may not be as old as people think." Jane: "Maybe its like the hobbit" #janeandlee— John Hawks (@johnhawks) February 9, 2017
Prof Lee Berger: "In 3wks a huge discovery that'll change the dating of #HomoNaledi will be made" #JaneAndLee pic.twitter.com/XTCMlaEAjH— Digital Mastermind (@deshanta) February 9, 2017
So there you go. The rumors have been going around that the date would be young, and that seems to be the case. The date I've heard is considerably less than a million radiometric years, which makes sense since the bones aren't mineralized. If that is the case (and I do not know that it is), then we can dismiss claims that H. naledi is really just an early or primitive H. erectus. It might be derived from a pre-erectus lineage, but the remains we have are much later.
Some might argue that H. naledi is just a relic, but as Hawks and Berger claimed in their 2016 commentary, there's very little hominin material from Africa contemporaneous with H. naledi. We thus could not say for certain if H. naledi was a widespread African hominin or if it really were a relic population in the Cradle of Humankind.
That all assumes that H. naledi does indeed turn out to be surprisingly young. I guess we'll find out in three weeks. Next week, I also have another naledi paper coming out, which may set off another tempest in a teapot. That will not be fun. Truth be told, I'm more excited about the date than my own analysis.
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