Stanley Gibbons: Yvert:
UPU: Category: pF
Designer: Cyril Maphumulo
Artwork: Brett Elott
Stamps in set
standard (domestic) postage
Size (width x height)
stamp: 35x35 mm,
Mini Sheet: 65 x 105 mm
Tullis Russell yellow/green
phosphor gum stamp paper, 103gsm
Offset Lithography, Four process
Southern Colour Security Print, New
South African Post Office
On September 8 2017, the South African Post Offce has issued a standard
postage miniature sheet and FDC in honour of Homo naledi,
The story of Homo naledi started when two recreational cavers Steven
Tucker and Rick Hunter entered a cave called Rising Star (Naledi
Chamber), eager to find an unknown channel and perhaps discover some
fossils in an area commonly known as the ‘Cradle of Mankind’. A
multitude of fossils
and earliest evidence of life on earth had been found in the area just
of Johannesburg in the middle of the 20th century leading to the
belief that mankind originated in South Africa, a fact that East
Africa also lay claim to.This belief encouraged adventurers to try
their luck at discovering new fossils. Tucker and Hunter were taking
photographs in a particularly narrow chamber when Tucker
found himself in a vertical chute that was in some places less than
eight inches wide. The sight of bones scattered around the cave
intrigued them as it is
uncommon to find fossils not solidified into stones, these were just
lying around and looked human like.
They took pictures and took them to Professor Lee Berger at the Wits
University Department of Palaeoanthropology and the rest is history. He
advertised on Facebook for very thin people who had to be scientifcally
sound and have caving experience. Six young women were selected out of
almost sixty applicants from all over the world. They went underground,
gathered the fossils whilst filming and relaying images to Berger and
his team that was above ground. The bones were superbly preserved, and
by March 2014, 1550 specimens in
all, representing at least 15 individuals had been excavated; these
included even the small bones of the ear canal! Parts of the skeletons
looked astonishingly modern though other parts were astonishingly
of Homo naledi:
• Its braincase is less than half that of the modern human skull
• Its hand displays curved fingers,
suggesting that it might have climbed
trees and used rudimentary tools. The thumb, wrist, and palm bones all
look remarkably modern.
• Its teeth range from humanlike molars to extremely primitive premolar
• The shoulders are non humanlike.
• The pelvis is very primitive at the top but the bottom of the same
pelvis looks like a modern human’s.
• The leg bones are shaped like an australopithecine’s at the top and
more modern at the bottom with feet that are virtually
indistinguishable from those of humans.
• The skull shows a mixture of the primitive and Homo sapiens.
• Berger and his team felt the species belonged in the Homo genus, and
because it was unlike any other member they regarded it as a new
species and called it Homo naledi after the chamber in which it had
• The most intriguing phenomenon observed by scientists was that the
bones appeared to have been
deliberately placed in the chamber.
There was no sign that they had fallen in or
perhaps been dragged in by
animals or even by
ﬂoods or even that they had lived in it.
All clues pointed to a
possibility of a burial chamber.
Could such small brained individuals been sophisticated enough to bury
The fact that Homo naledi was not embedded in rock meant that dating
the fossils became extremely difficult. Homo naledi was originally
thought to be approximately 2 millions years old, but research
in 2017 dates the oldest
specimen of the species to be 335, 000 years old. The age of Homo
naledi suggests that the species may have lived alongside Homo sapiens!
Many elements came together to make the study of Homo naledi possible,
the spirit of adventure, the size of the cavers, the link the cavers
had with Berger’s geologist contact, the overwhelming response to
Berger’s advert, the skilled assistants that Berger had at his disposal
to process the fossils, the sheer volume of specimens and finally the
availability of funding by the National Geographic. The date of the
announcement of the species, 10 September 2015 will for ever be a
special one for South Africa.
Officila (left) and personalized
Many thanks to Hans Ulrich Bantz for his help to find an information
about this stamps