Geological and taphonomic context for the new hominin species Homo naledi from the Dinaledi Chamber, South Africa

Paul H.G.M. Dirks*, Lee R. Berger, Eric M. Roberts, Jan D. Kramers, John Hawks, Patrick S. Randolph-Quinney, Marina Elliott, Charles M. Musiba, Steven E. Churchill, Darryl J. de Ruiter, Peter Schmid, Lucinda R. Backwell, Georgy A. Belyanin, Pedro Boshoff, K. Lindsay Hunter, Elen M. Feuerriegel, Alia Gurtov, James du G. Harrison, Rick Hunter, Ashley KrugerHannah Morris, Tebogo V. Makhubela, Becca Peixotto, Steven Tucker

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

109 Citations (Scopus)


We describe the physical context of the Dinaledi Chamber within the Rising Star cave, South Africa, which contains the fossils of Homo naledi. Approximately 1550 specimens of hominin remains have been recovered from at least 15 individuals, representing a small portion of the total fossil content. Macro-vertebrate fossils are exclusively H. naledi, and occur within clay-rich sediments derived from in situ weathering, and exogenous clay and silt, which entered the chamber through fractures that prevented passage of coarser-grained material. The chamber was always in the dark zone, and not accessible to non-hominins. Bone taphonomy indicates that hominin individuals reached the chamber complete, with disarticulation occurring during/after deposition. Hominins accumulated over time as older laminated mudstone units and sediment along the cave floor were eroded. Preliminary evidence is consistent with deliberate body disposal in a single location, by a hominin species other than Homo sapiens, at an as-yet unknown date.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere09561
Issue numberSeptember2015
Publication statusPublished - 10 Sept 2015
Externally publishedYes


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