“We do know that African populations derive some small fraction of their DNA… from archaic lineages… It could be Naledi?”– Dr. John Hawks, Univ. of Wisconsin – Madison, lecture 2018
by Martha Christina Jacobs, South Africa
Many South Africans have morphological traits, resembling those of Homo naledi. These traits are prevalent especially in southern Africans, some members of the African population, within the borders of the Republic of South Africa, who are now scattered across the 9 provinces.
Many formerly lived in the Zululand homeland district in the eastern half of KwaZulu-Natal, and close to the modern Durban area.
Most of the others lived in the former African/Natural homelands of the former dispensation, in Basotholand (now Northwest Province in the northern half of South Africa), Transkei (on the border between KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape, as well as the Ciskei (near the Kei River).
The ones who lived near the Kei River were of the Xhosa ethnicity. The ones who lived in Natal were mostly of the Zulu ethnicity. The Pedi ethnic groups lived in the area where Limpopo Province is now. The Sotho ethnic group lived in Basotholand. The Basothos had less of the Homo naledi traits.
Homo naledi “had a face, including a smile that was probably more human than apelike” — John Hawks
From Univ. of Wisconsin News, “Homo naledi: Fossil Trove Adds a new limb to the family tree,” by Terry Devitt:
With a small head and brain, hunched shoulders, powerful hands and thin limbs, Homo naledi was built for long-distance walking, says [Univ. of Wisconsin prof. John] Hawks, an expert on early humans. Fully grown, it stood about five feet tall, was broad chested, walked upright and had a face, including a smile that was probably more human than apelike.
The Natural History Museum, nhm.ac.uk describes Homo naledi’s features:
a small head with a very projecting face, a relatively slender body but with wide hips, and human-like feet and hands, but long curved fingers
Some morphological features of Homo naledi, excerpted from the australian.museum:
Given the relatively late date for the remains, it is possible that some archaic human populations existed in the same region as H. naledi – for instance, the Kabwe remains from Zambia and the Florisbad skull from South Africa. However, we can’t be sure they lived in close proximity or were in contact with each other.
It is also possible that H. naledi met modern humans, who first appeared in southern and eastern Africa about 200,000 years ago.
The shoulders, hips and torso retain primitive features more like those of australopithecines. The lower body, cranium and teeth show more humanlike adaptations related to functions such as locomotion, hand-use and food processing.
- adult males were about 150cm or 5 foot tall and weighed about 45kgs. Females were slightly shorter and lighter. Sexual dimorphism was limited.
- upright stance and bipedal locomotion
- the upper body was structurally more primitive than other Homo species and more australopith-like. For instance, the ribcage was relatively broad like that of A. afarensis.
- the overall skull shape is unique but is most similar to early Homo species like H. erectus and H. habilis.
- Homo features in the skull include a flat midface and little post-orbital constriction (narrowing of skull behind the eye sockets)
In a science podcast on YouTube in July, Dr. Steven Churcill, Dept. Head of Evolutionary Anthropology at Duke University, and a member of the Lee Berger, John Hawks Homo naledi explorer team, suggested that Homo naledi could be ancestral to Homo sapiens. (Subspecieist first to break the news, Sept. 2022).
“[Homo naledi] interbred with other members of the genus Homo, including perhaps our species, or ancestors of our species… work that’s been done on the genome of people who are indigenous to Africa… Sub-saharan Africans, identify what they call a ghost lineage which contributed genetically to our lineage. That could be Naledi…”
In his 2017 paper, Dr. Hawks along with Marina Elliott, Stephen Churchill and numerous other participating authors, made specific reference to Homo naledi’s facial morphology, the “zygomatic process of the temporal, a medially positioned mandibular fossa…”
A description from anatomy site kenhub.com:
The zygomatic bone is nearly quadrangular in shape and it features three surfaces, five borders and two processes. Besides forming the prominence of the cheek, the zygomatic bone also contributes to the formation of the zygomatic arch, the walls of the temporal and infratemporal fossae, and the floor and lateral wall of the bony orbit.
Interestingly. facial similarities with Homo naledi and well-known Africans has even impacted popular SA culture. As reported here at Subspecieist, 2020, model and actress Norma Mngoma was labeled a Homo naledi by a fashionista rival. (Note – Gigaba is Norma Mngoma’s married name).
“Homo naledi” Norma Mngoma tells all on ex-husband South Africa finance minister
More from South Africa IOL, 2017:
Buhle Mkhize, the alleged former mistress of Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba, had SA tweeps hanging onto her every word as a Twitter account with her name unloaded some files on Gigaba and his wife Norma.
Mkhize, a US-based fashionista, appeared to have created a new Twitter account on Tuesday to hit back at Norma, who had seemingly referred or implied she was a prostitute in an interview with eNCA at the weekend.
Continuing from South Africa World:
According to Mkhize, Norma ended up blocking the “side chick” (as many Tweeps called her), which Mkhize thought was “embarrassing” to her.
“Lol she’s basically making fun of Norma Gigaba [Mngoma] by saying she looks like Homo Naledi”
Mkhize Tweeted out a side by side photo of Mngoma and Homo naledi.
The nickname has taken on a life of its own. Dozens of Tweets have appeared on Twitter (#Homonaledi) in the last few days, making joking references to Mngoma, such as:
Son of Kushi: “she was once called Homo Naledi and today you guys are calling her Shrek…”
Southinha Matela: “I forgot the name of that lady who called Norma Homonaledi…”
Molemi: “Norma aka Homo naledi”
Monsieur LaPadite: “Homo naledi is not playing games… A woman SCORNED!”
Note – Watch a high quality 6 minute video on the History of the Xhosa people at YouTube by HomeTeamHistory (Photos above).