There is “no compelling scientific evidence” behind the extraordinary claims that the ancient human relative gay star They deliberately buried their dead, engraved rocks deep in a South African cave about 300,000 years ago, a group of archaeologists argues in a new commentary.
H. naledi became a lightning rod of controversy earlier this year after a team reclaimed The extinct hominid with a brain the size of an orange took his dead to the Rising Star cave system, lit fires and etched abstract patterns and shapes into the walls, complex behaviors previously only known in modern humans with larger brains. .A wise man) and our close cousins.
The team sparked a backlash, in part, because they announced their controversial findings in a conference speech and three pre-print studies that were not peer-reviewed, frustrating some scientists, National Geographic reported at the time. The online journal eLife accepted the preprints, initially posted on bioRxiv in June, for public presentation. peer review evaluationwhich concluded there was “incomplete” evidence behind the claims.
A hit Netflix documentary featuring the discoveries, called “Unknown: Cave of Bones” (2023), released on July 17, less than a week after eLife published preprints and reviews.
Now, a team of researchers analyzed the three eLife studies in detail and argued in a traditionally peer-reviewed commentary, published November 10 in the journal Journal of Human Evolutionthat convincing scientific evidence for deliberate burial or rock art was never presented.
Chris Stringerleader of human origins research at the Natural History Museum in London who was not involved in either study, told LiveScience in an email that he agreed with the cautious approach of the new commentary and said it was “well argued.”
“I see it as a necessary reply to some premature and exaggerated conclusions about the supposedly complex behavior of gay star“Stringer said.
H. naledi It was a bipedal hominid 1.5 meters tall with agile hands and small but complex brain. Andy Herriesprofessor of paleoanthropology at La Trobe University in Australia and one of the authors of the new commentary, told LiveScience that he does not rule out H. naledi claimsbut noted a lack of science to back them up.
“There is a possibility that some of this is correct,” Herries said. “What we’re asking for is solid scientific data to back it up, including standardized things that would be done by archeology“.
Herries described the “fundamental basics” missing from the 2023 eLife studies, including a detailed analysis of the supposed funerary sediments and radiocarbon dating of coal from alleged fires. He also wanted more comparisons between supposed dolomite rock carvings and natural erosion, which he often sees in South Africa.
“I’ve worked here for 26 years and I see natural things in the dolomite that look like this,” Herries said.
Lee Bergerpaleoanthropologist and resident explorer of the National Geographic Society, led the team that described H. naledi in 2015 and the research group that reported on the controversial evidence of deliberate burial and engravings. He believes the new article repeated concerns his team had already addressed.
“The arguments presented are predominantly those that already appeared in the eLife reviews and in the public comments of these same authors, and were already taken into account in the revised manuscript that was resubmitted to eLife,” Berger told LiveScience. in an email.
Berger said he was also disappointed with the title of the comment: “There is no scientific evidence that gay star They buried their dead and produced rock art” because “what is being debated is the interpretation, not the actual data.”
Berger’s team published a answer to eLife reviews earlier this year. According to Berger, his response to the new comment will be published in the Journal of Human Evolution next week.
But that won’t be the last word on whether H. naledi they intentionally buried their dead, lit bonfires, and carved rock art. Another external study by a different team that addresses the claim of deliberate H. naledi The burial is currently under peer review.
Live Science reached out to Netflix for comment on the accuracy of “Unknown: Cave of Bones,” but did not receive any at the time of publication.