Original Research - Special Collection: SASRF Creation, Consciousness and Christology

‘Welc(h)omo Naledi’! What does our newest relative have to say to us?

Daniël P. Veldsman
HTS Teologiese Studies / Theological Studies | Vol 72, No 4 | a3388 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/hts.v72i4.3388 | © 2016 Daniël P. Veldsman | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 26 February 2016 | Published: 31 August 2016

About the author(s)

Daniël P. Veldsman, Department of Dogmatics and Christian Ethics, University of Pretoria, South Africa


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Abstract

The new hominin fossil called Homo naledi that was discovered 2 years ago in the Dinaledi Chamber (South Africa) was welcomed into the species of human relatives on 10 September 2015. Welcomed? Representing at least 15 individuals with most skeletal elements repeated multiple times, this is the largest assemblage of a single species of hominins yet discovered in Africa. Do, however, these bones represent a new Homo species? It is this question that I have tried to capture in my playful grammatically incorrect title ‘Welc(ho)mo Naledi’! However, it is not this question that I will endeavour to answer, but a very different theological implication. My aim in this article is definitely not to argue an opinion on the diverse question regarding the discovery of the fossil skeletons from the Dinaledi Chamber. My aim is related but different, much more modest, restricted and focused. It is to ask ‘on the other historic side’ (that is, beyond the fossil record!) of Naledi about human distinctiveness and symbolic behaviour, specifically on soteriology. Within the broader contemporary philosophical-theological discourses on anthropology and specifically the fundamental question, ‘Are we special?’, I would like ultimately to take on the intriguing theological implications for soteriology from the Naledi (and earlier) findings.

Keywords

Homo Naledi; embodied personhood; symbolic behaviour; soteriology; evolution

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