2023 Author: Bryan Walter | [email protected]. Last modified: 2023-05-21 22:24
Russian anthropologists were able to recreate the appearance of one of the recently discovered species of ancient people - Homo naledi, who lived in Africa about 300 thousand years ago. Alexander Sokolov talks about their work.
At the beginning of the 21st century, it seemed to some scientists that everything was already open and there were no blank spots left in the genealogy of a person. But in 2004, anthropologists discovered "hobbits" on the Indonesian island of Flores, and 11 years later, a cave burial of another unknown species of ancient people was found in South Africa.
The finds in the South African Rising Star Cave shocked everyone. Deep underground, in a secret chamber, on the floor lay the remains of 15 amazing creatures - not tall, with a small brain, similar in structure to both monkeys and humans. The creatures resembled the very first people - Homo habilis, who lived about two million years ago - but they had many unique features, and therefore they were described as a new species of Homo naledi.
Scientists were even more surprised when strange bones could be dated. It turned out that the creatures from Rising Star roamed Africa "only" 300 thousand years ago. But at this time, the immediate ancestors of Homo sapiens already lived very close - people quite similar to us, tall and large-headed.
How did strange people manage to survive for hundreds of thousands of years? Why did they die? How did their remains end up in a cell into which you can only squeeze through a 20-centimeter wide gutter? Have the ice masses met with other members of the human race? Scientists have yet to find answers to these questions.
On the initiative of the Antropogenesis.ru portal, together with the State Biological Museum, Russian specialists began to recreate the appearance of Homo naledi. For the reconstruction, a dummy skull was used, presented to us by the discoverer of the ice, paleoanthropologist Lee Berger.
Three specialists took over the reconstruction at once. Elizaveta Veselovskaya, head of the Laboratory of Anthropological Reconstruction of the Institute of Ethnology and Anthropology of the Russian Academy of Sciences, using the famous technique of Mikhail Gerasimov, recreated the shape of the head of an ancient man: based on the structure of the bones, she established the thickness of soft tissues at certain points on the skull, formed muscles, calculated the shape of the nose, mouth and eyelids, even estimated the size of the ears. A sculptural reconstruction of the head of Homo naledi has appeared.
The sculptor Anatoly Aleksandrov, on the basis of the reconstruction made, performed a hyperrealistic sculpture in full growth, adding Homo naledi "living" eyes, hair, covering it with skin. The structure of the body was reproduced based on the characteristics of the skeleton of the ice.
Specialist in computer graphics, master of special effects Sergey Krivoplyasov created a five-minute cartoon in which Homo naledi came to life and set off on a journey across the savannah full of dangers; met our direct ancestor, a Heidelberg man, and survived a leopard attack. Models of ancient people and leopards, the landscape, even the interior of the cave were created in close contact with specialists. Anthropological work on the cartoon was supervised by anthropologist Stanislav Drobyshevsky.
The entire course of the project was recorded on video, the result was a half-hour documentary, revealing the secrets of the work of reenactors in all details.
On Earth Day, April 22, for the first time in 300 thousand years, ice will come to life at the "Day of the missing link" at NUST MISIS, organized by Antropogenesis.ru in cooperation with the State Biological Museum named after K. A. Timiryazev. The audience will not only be shown the result of the work of anthropologists and artists, but will also be told about how they managed to achieve it. Scientists themselves will make reports on the tasks that they had to solve during the work on the project, and what the new reconstruction of Homo naledi will give to science.
The finalist of the "Enlightener" award Stanislav Drobyshevsky will acquaint the guests with how the picture of human evolution is changing in the light of new discoveries. Spectators will also be shown new exhibits of the exhibition "How to get into people" (State Biological Museum and Anthropogenesis.ru) - skulls of human ancestors, the head of the exhibition Nadezhda Pantyulina will talk about the development of the project. Details can be found on the website