The newest member of the Homo family is Homo Naledi ( “naledi” means “star” in the Sotho-Tswana language) found in caves in South Africa. It lived between 236,000 and 335,000 years ago, very close to the time of our ancestors (some 209,000 by our calculations). It is always exciting to add another branch to the human tree, but without DNA we are at the hand of anthropologists who have already proved to be very inaccurate when it comes to phylogeny.
To illustrate this to my student I show them pictures of old cars and ask them to sort it by year of production.
Would they rely on the design of the car? the flash lights? the wheel? All these elements were inspired by other cars! In other words, they are all mixed. If we cannot even sort out cars, how can we possibly sort these skeletons that are incomplete and damaged?
Not that geneticists fully appreciate admixture. Admixture is a pain. It is far more easy to ignore it. But at least with the DNA sequence available, those with appreciation for admixture can study it. Until then, we can only hope that the H. Naledi DNA sequence would become available soon.