Original Research - Special Collection: SASRF What it means to be human?

Naledi: An example of how natural phenomena can inspire metaphysical assumptions

Francois Durand
HTS Teologiese Studies / Theological Studies | Vol 73, No 3 | a4507 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/hts.v73i3.4507 | © 2017 Francois Durand | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 23 January 2017 | Published: 07 September 2017

About the author(s)

Francois Durand, Department of Zoology, University of Johannesburg, South Africa


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Abstract

A new fossil site was discovered in the Rising Star Cave in 2013 in the Cradle of Humankind in South Africa. This site which has yielded 1550 hominin bones so far is considered to be one of the richest palaeoanthropological sites in the world. The deposition of the fossils in a remote part of the cave system, approximately 100 m from the entrance, has resulted in a great deal of speculation. The relative inaccessibility of the site and the number of fossil bones it contained and the fact that virtually all these bones were those of a single species of hominid led to the conclusion that the bones were not deposited because of natural sedimentary processes, but that these phenomena were evidence of purposeful disposal or even burial of the dead by hominins. If this assumption is true, it would be the earliest evidence of a metaphysical awareness in humankind. The tenuous evidence on which this hypothesis rests will be discussed and a more plausible alternative explanation where water and gravity were responsible for the deposition of the remains is forwarded.

Keywords

Cave taphonomy; Human evolution; Burial

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