The history of humankind has changed with the discovery of a new human ancestor, Homo naledi, in the Cradle of Humankind, it was announced on Thursday.
“Today I am pleased to introduce you to a new species… they are an extra-ordinary species,” said Professor Lee Berger.
Some 1 550 fossils were found in a cave, and there are thousands more still there.
The find includes 15 individuals – eight children and five adults.
The most interesting part about the discovery is that these bodies were carried into the cave or thrown into the cave.
This means that Homo naledi had an understanding of death, Berger said at the Cradle of Humankind on Thursday.
This discovery would reverse stereotypes about Africa and Africans, acting Gauteng premier Lebogang Maile said at the announcement.
Wits vice chancellor Adam Habib described it as a discovery with a global momentous impact.
The discovery unveiled on Thursday was found at the Rising Star cave in October 2013. The fossils were found in a remote chamber, about 90 metres from the entrance.
A team of cavers had to fit through an 18-centimetre wide hole and climb down a 12-metre vertical passage in very dangerous conditions to remove the fossils.