The new hominin fossil called Homo naledi that was discovered 2 years ago in the Dinaledi Chamber
(South Africa) was welcomed into the species of human relatives on 10 September 2015. Welcomed?
Representing at least 15 individuals with most skeletal elements repeated multiple times, this is the
largest assemblage of a single species of hominins yet discovered in Africa. Do, however, these
bones represent a new Homo species? It is this question that I have tried to capture in my playful
grammatically incorrect title ‘Welc(ho)mo Naledi’! However, it is not this question that I will
endeavour to answer, but a very different theological implication. My aim in this article is definitely
not to argue an opinion on the diverse question regarding the discovery of the fossil skeletons from
the Dinaledi Chamber. My aim is related but different, much more modest, restricted and focused.
It is to ask ‘on the other historic side’ (that is, beyond the fossil record!) of Naledi about human
distinctiveness and symbolic behaviour, specifically on soteriology. Within the broader
contemporary philosophical-theological discourses on anthropology and specifically the
fundamental question, ‘Are we special?’, I would like ultimately to take on the intriguing theological
implications for soteriology from the Naledi (and earlier) findings.
This research is part of the
Experience from an
directed by Prof. Dr Danie
Dogmatics and Christian
Ethics, Faculty of Theology,
University of Pretoria.