Scientists on Thursday announced the discovery of new human-like species in a burial chamber deep near Johannesburg in South Africa.

Researchers said the new discovery of 15 partial skeletons made up of 1,550 separate parts were unearthed during a mammoth excavation project which began in November 2013.

They said the fossil, largest single discovery of its type in Africa, was funded by the department of science and technology as well as the National Research Foundation Centre of Excellence at the University of the Witwatersrand.

The experts disclosed that the species, which has been named Naledi, meaning “star” in the local Sesotho language, is classified in the Homo sapiens category to which modern humans belong.

They said the creatures had a small brain, pelvis and shoulders, the shape of the skull, teeth, legs and feet separated them from earlier apes.

It is believed the species lived in and around the caves about three million years ago and were approximately 1.5 metres tall and weighed about 45 kilogrammes.

The studies which have been published in the journal Elife also indicate that these individuals were capable of ritual behaviour.

The world heritage site is the same place where the skull of Ples was discovered last century.

The discovery of the Australopithecus africanus in the Sterkfontein caves in 1947 was one of the most dramatic fossil finds in history.

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