The discovery of more than 1,500 human fossils in a narrow cave in South Africa, presented in 2015, brought to light the so-called Homo Naledi, mysterious ancient humans with a brain the size of a chimpanzee, who lived in East Africa among the first Homo Sapiens. A study on these ancestors shed more light on brain evolution in humans.
The remains belonged to at least 15 individuals and were well-preserved. According to their discoverers, they had been deposited there as a funerary act, a typically human trait in a species that many experts do not consider worthy of belonging to the same genus as Homo Sapiens.
Recently, scientists decided to examine the brain of the Homo Naledi
Researchers have reconstructed the left hemisphere of the brain of this ancient humans species that has been extinct for about 250,000 years based on the marks left by the brain on the inner walls of the skull of five individuals.
The Naledi humans had a cranial capacity of half a liter, about one-third of a modern-day person’s cranial capacity. The new work shows that the lower frontal gyrus, part of the cerebral cortex where complex reasoning abilities and language are concentrated, present clear similarities with Homo Sapiens.
In turn, Naledi’s brain circumvolutions were different from those of great apes, notes the study, published in the journal of the US National Academy of Sciences.
The study shed more light on the brain evolution in ancient humans
“Humans today have very large brains compared to other primates, but their shape is also different,” explains John Hawks, an anthropologist at the University of Wisconsin.
“Until now we didn’t know when the changes in the shape of the brain occurred and whether they were partly due to organ growth. Homo Naledi now shows us that part of the characteristic brain shape of today’s humans already existed in other species with much smaller brains,” he added.
Probably the typical human brain shape already existed about two million years ago when the last common ancestor of the Homo Naledi ancient humans and Homo Sapiens lived, according to the study which, in fact, shed more light on brain evolution in humans.