Scientists are trying to determine how the fossils of Homo Naledi ended up in the Dinaledi Chamber of the Rising Star Cave.
Recently a team of researchers surveyed and scanned the entire cave system with high resolution scanners and took 3D models.
Image: courtesy of Wits University.
The research 'Multimodal spatial mapping and visualisation of Dinaledi Chamber and Rising Star Cave' is published in the South African Journal of Science.
The species is said to be the largest human fossil ensemble to be discovered on the African continent, consisting of 1500 specimens.
The fossils were revealed at the Cradle of Humankind on Gauteng's West Rand last year.
PhD candidate in Palaeoanthropology at the Evolutionary Studies Institute at Wits, Ashley Kruger says the purpose of documenting the excavation in 3D is that when you remove something like a bone from a paleontological or archaeological site you change the site forever.
We can start plugging the excavation scans into 3D model to understand how these bones came to rest inside the chamber
“So one way to really understand the site properly is to document it before you recover anything and we did that with the use of the 3D scans, so we scanned the excavations as it was happening, and produced a 3D model of the entire excavation process over a couple of weeks. We then wanted to link those excavations to the broad framework.”
Kruger says the process of analysing the scans, the 3D model of the cave system gives us an idea of the relationship between the Dinaledi Chambers and the above ground.
Infographic: courtesy of Wits University.
“So we know it’s about 38m underground now, it is about 90m from the entrance to get to the actual chamber. We can start plugging the excavation scans into 3D model to understand how these bones came to rest inside the chamber.”
He says they are going to analyse the excavations scans and start piercing together the relationship between the material within the chamber to the rest of the cave system as well as the bones in the chamber.
“What is their relationship to each other, can they tell us a story, can they tell us something about the life of homo naledi or importantly the death of homo naledi.”
Click below to watch the interview.