Homo naledi: Claims of a Transitional Ape

Our first article on Homo naledi addressed questions about the anatomy and geologic setting of these fossils. Our second asked why these scientists chose to not date the fossils. This third and final article explores the question of how the fossils arrived in such a remote part of the cave. This may be the toughest of the three questions to answer.

The amount of flowstone has obviously grown and reduced the volume of the cave in the last few thousand years. Perhaps this change narrowed the passageways in and out. Just how open the cave was at the time these bones were emplaced is hard to estimate. Among the fossils the researchers found a wide mixture of specimen sizes, none of which had any signs of predation.1 Only a few birds and a rodent were found with the hominin bones.2

Berger and his team think the hominin bones were deliberately placed there by living Homo naledi in some sort of burial ritual.2 He told National Geographic, "Disposal of the dead brings closure for the living and confers respect. Such sentiments are a hallmark of humanity. But H. naledi was not human."3 However, the long convoluted path to ritually bury these remains makes this interpretation unlikely, and others disagree with Berger's interpretation. Richard Leakey believes they probably washed in, telling National Geographic, "There has to be another entrance."3

Whether or not there was another cave entrance, or if the flowstone has since restricted the passageways and openings, the mystery of how the bones ended up in the deep cave chamber will likely not be easily resolved. In a technical article published in eLife, Dirks and his colleagues described sedimentary evidence in the cave floor that suggests periods of higher water flow rates in the cave.2 It is possible that flash-flooding of the larger chamber drowned the humans and animals taking refuge in the cave and transported their remains to the back of the cave system. Whether or not the ape-like bones were transported at the same time as the humans is unclear since subsequent flooding may have mixed them around. The bones are not laid out in any organized manner, but are well dispersed.2

The scattering of these bones within only the upper eight inches of sediment in the cave floor suggests the emplacement of these bones occurred relatively recently. This may have occurred during the beginning of the post-Flood period, and possibly during the Ice Age, when water levels and climate fluctuations would have been more dramatic and sporadic. The Bible indicates this took place just a few thousand years ago.4

The geology, anatomy, lack of dating, and evidence of recent water action reveal that the media blitz and excitement over Homo naledi is essentially based on a falsehood. It appears the secular scientific community continues their predecessors' search to find a "missing link" and establish what they have already decided to believe: that our human race came from apes, not Adam.

These scattered fossils are most likely young, just thousands of years old, and deposited post-Flood. They show no indication of any evolution. The claimed new species appears to be a mosaic of different species put together based on evolutionary biases, not scientific evidence. The scientists built an imaginary creature from bones that likely come from both humans and non-humans.

In any case, claims of ritualistic burial are premature at best and story-serving at worst. God clearly tells us in Genesis 1:26 that He made man in His image, giving mankind dominion over all other animals. He did not make creatures that were "almost human," and no evidence—including that from Homo naledi—has so far refuted this.


  1. Berger, L. R. et al. Homo naledi, a new species of the genus Homo from the Dinaledi Chamber, South Africa. eLife. Posted on elifesciences.org September 10, 2015, accessed October 1, 2015. 
  2. Dirks, P. et al. Geological and taphonomic context for the hominin species Homo naledi from the Dinaledi Chamber, South Africa. eLife. Posted on elifesciences.org September 10, 2015, accessed September 15, 2015. 
  3. Shreeve, J. 2015. Mystery man: A trove of fossils found deep in a South African cave adds a baffling new branch to the human family tree. National Geographic. 228 (4): 30-57.
  4. Jake Hebert, Ph.D. 2013. Was There an Ice Age? Acts & Facts. 42 (12): 20. 

Image Credit: Copyright © 2015 National Geographic Society. Art by J. Foster. Source: L. Berger, University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa. Adapted for use in accordance with federal copyright (fair use doctrine) law. Usage by ICR does not imply endorsement of copyright holder.

*Dr. Clarey is a Research Associate at the Institute for Creation Research.

Article posted on October 22, 2015.