Video: What The Newfound Ancient Human Relative Probably Looked Like

A recreation of Homo naledi by paleoartist John Gurche. Mark Thiessen / National Geographic

Scientists recently announced the discovery of a large trove of bones in South Africa that belong to a newly identified human relative, dubbed Homo naledi. In some ways, it closely resembles humans. After analyzing the skeletons, scientists believe Homo naledi had feet that were nearly indistinguishable from ours, according to National Geographic, except for slightly curved toes, and also had thumbs, wrists and palms very similar to those of humans. It likewise had an advanced, human-like skull and long legs characteristic of a bipedal gait, as explained in a study detailing the finding published in the journal eLife.

On the other hand, it retained certain ape-like features: curved fingers that might have made it more adept at climbing than us Homo sapiens and differently shaped shoulders that appear to have been well-adapted for activities such as hanging and swinging.

But an obvious question arises: What did it actually look like?

Paleoartist John Gurche worked with researchers who made the find, from South Africa's University of the Witwatersrand and elsewhere, to re-create the face of a H. naledi. He uses the fossil evidence to shape the skull, and knowledge of comparative anatomy of other human ancestors to fill in the details that don't fossilize, such as the ears. The results can be seen in the video above.

"It's a wonderful thing to be...the guy who figures out what some ancient species that's never been found before looks like," Gurche says.