Paleoartist John Gurche is known for his award-winning reconstructions of our ancient human ancestors. His process of mixing forensic accuracy with emotional realism has been featured in documentaries by National Geographic, the Smithsonian, and the BBC, so it’s no wonder that he was brought in to reconstruct the face of Homo naledi, the newly discovered hominin species. From The Washington Post:

“H. naledi is an unusual combination of the primitive and the modern, the scientists said. Its brain was no larger than a baseball; its shoulders and torso primitive; its fingers long and curved, allowing H. naledi to climb and swing from the trees. At the same time, H. naledi’s wrist bones indicated that it used tools. Its long legs and feet, nearly indistinguishable from those of modern man, allowed it not only to walk upright but also to travel for many miles at a time.”

This combo was a new challenge for Gurche, who strives to accurately portray anatomy while making decisions about details he has no information on, such as ears, skin color, and hair.

Pair the video above with Uncovering Early Humans, below, which not only features Gurche’s reconstructions, but also clarifies that humans didn’t evolve from a single evolutionary line. Remains from around the planet represent many branches in our evolutionary history, what paleoanthropologist Dr. Rick Potts calls “different experiments in being human”.

Watch these next: Ancient Ancestors Come to Life at the Smithsonian and Deep in the caves with Homo Naledi & the Rising Star Expedition.

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