Massive human head in Chinese well forces scientists to rethink evolution

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Hot Air 26 June, 2021 - 09:10pm 19 views

What is a dragon man?

Researchers said Homo longi or "Dragon Man" could replace Neanderthals as our own species' closest relative. ... The discovery of the new species is connected to a skull known as the Harbin cranium, a fossil thought to have been discovered decades ago but only recently studied. NBC NewsDiscovery of 'Dragon Man' skull in China prompts rethink of human evolution

How big is the Dragon Man skull?

One of the most remarkable aspects of the Harbin cranium is its massive size, which, at 9 inches long and more than 6 inches wide, is significantly larger than the modern human skull. CBS NewsMassive "Dragon Man" skull found in China might be a new human evolutionary branch

Analysis of the remains has revealed a new branch of the human family tree that points to a previously unknown sister group more closely related to modern humans than the Neanderthals.

The extraordinary fossil has been named a new human species, Homo longi or “Dragon man”, by Chinese researchers, although other experts are more cautious about the designation.

“I think this is one of the most important finds of the past 50 years,” said Prof Chris Stringer, research leader at the Natural History Museum in London, who worked on the project. “It’s a wonderfully preserved fossil.”

The skull appears to have a remarkable backstory. According to the researchers, it was originally found in 1933 by Chinese labourers building a bridge over the Songhua River in Harbin, in China’s northernmost province, Heilongjiang, during the Japanese occupation. To keep the skull from falling into Japanese hands it was wrapped and hidden in an abandoned well, resurfacing only in 2018 after the man who hid it told his grandson about it shortly before he died.

The skull, which is 23cm long and more than 15cm wide, is substantially larger than a modern human’s and has ample room, at 1,420ml, for a modern human brain. Beneath the thick brow ridge, the face has large square eye sockets, but is delicate despite its size. “This guy had a huge head,” said Stringer.

The researchers believe the skull belonged to a male, about 50 years old, who would have been an impressive physical specimen. His wide, bulbous nose allowed him to breathe huge volumes of air, indicating a high-energy lifestyle, while sheer size would have helped him withstand the brutally cold winters in the region. “Homo longi is heavily built, very robust,” said Prof Xijun Ni, a paleoanthropologist at Hebei. “It is hard to estimate the height, but the massive head should match a height higher than the average of modern humans.”

To work out where the Harbin individual fitted into human history, the scientists fed measurements from the fossil and 95 other skulls into software that compiled the most likely family tree. To their surprise, the Harbin skull and a handful of others from China formed a new branch closer to modern humans than Neanderthals.

The Chinese researchers believe the Harbin skull is distinct enough to make it a new species, but Stringer is not convinced. He believes it is similar to another found in Dali county in China in 1978.

“I prefer to call it Homo daliensis, but it’s not a big deal,” he said. “The important thing is the third lineage of later humans that are separate from Neanderthals and separate from Homo sapiens.” Details are published in three papers in The Innovation.

Whatever the name, one possibility is that the Harbin skull is Denisovan, a mysterious group of extinct humans known largely from DNA and bone fragments recovered from Siberia. “Certainly this specimen could be Denisovan but we have to be cautious. What we need is much more complete skeletal material of the Denisovans alongside DNA,” Stringer said.

Mark Maslin, a professor of earth system science at UCL and the author of The Cradle of Humanity, said: “The beautifully preserved Chinese Harbin archaic human skull adds even more evidence that human evolution was not a simple evolutionary tree but a dense intertwined bush. We now know that there were as many as 10 different species of hominins at the same time as our own species emerged.

“Genetic analysis shows that these species interacted and interbred – our own genetics contain the legacy of many of these ghost species. But what is a sobering thought, is that despite all this diversity, a new version of Homo sapiens emerged from Africa about 60,000 years ago which clearly out-competed, out-bred, and even out-fought these other closely related species, causing their extinction. It is only by painstaking searching and analysis of their fossils, such as the Harbin skull, do we know of their existence.”

Read full article at Hot Air

Bones of ‘ghost human’ found in Israel

NEWS.com.au 26 June, 2021 - 08:38pm

The bones of lost “ghost human” species that lived alongside us 120,000 years ago have been discovered, according to archaeologists

These remains could belong to a previously unknown ancient type of human/ Picture: AFPSource:Supplied

A new type of ancient human has been discovered in Israel, according to archaeologists.

Our Homo sapiens species would have lived alongside the previously unknown ancient humans 120,000 years ago.

Experts found fragments of ancient skull, jaw bones and teeth that are being attributed to a new species, The Sun reports.

Researchers are now calling the ancient people the Nesher Ramla people.

Anthropologist Israel Hershkovitz from Tel Aviv University is the lead author of the study.

Hershkovitz said: “The discovery of a new type of Homo is of great scientific importance.

These remains could belong to a previously unknown ancient type of human. Picture: AFPSource:Supplied

“It enables us to make new sense of previously found human fossils, add another piece to the puzzle of human evolution, and understand the migrations of humans in the old world.

“Even though they lived so long ago, in the late middle Pleistocene (474,000-130,000 years ago), the Nesher Ramla people can tell us a fascinating tale, revealing a great deal about their descendants’ evolution and way of life.”

The remains were discovered eight metres deep at the Nesher Ramla archaeological site.

A reconstruction revealed differences to Homo sapiens. Picture: AFPSource:Supplied

Animal bones and stone tools were also dug up.

The new ancient human remains have been dated somewhere between 120,000 and 140,000 years old.

Experts tried to reconstruct what the face of the ancient ancestor would have looked like.

They found the jaw was similar to that of a Neanderthal but the other bone fragments were more similar to humans.

However, the bones were different enough from each species to stand out as a potentially new one.

The skull structure is different to Homo sapiens. Picture: AFPSource:Supplied

It’s thought the Nesher Ramla people had larger teeth than us and had a different skull structure and no chin.

It’s thought the species could have appeared around 400,000 years ago and may have eventually lived alongside Homo sapiens who appeared later.

Homo sapiens arrived 200,000 years ago and may have shared an area known as the Levant with the Nesher Ramla people for around 100,000 years.

The discovery was made in Israel. Picture: AFPSource:Supplied

Archaeologist Yossi Zaidner from The Hebrew University of Jerusalem in Israel wrote a second paper on the discovery.

Zaidner said: “This is an extraordinary discovery.

“We had never imagined that alongside H. sapiens, archaic Homo roamed the area so late in human history.

Animal bones and stone tools were also found at the site. Picture: AFPSource:Supplied

“The archaeological finds associated with human fossils show that Nesher Ramla Homo possessed advanced stone-tool production technologies and most likely interacted with the local H. sapiens.”

Hershkovitz added: “Our findings imply that the famous Neanderthals of Western Europe are only the remnants of a much larger population that lived here in the Levant – and not the other way around.”

The bones could teach us about interbreeding between ancient humans. Picture: AFPSource:Supplied

There could have been interbreeding between the different species and the new findings could help solve the mystery surrounding a lost population of Neanderthals that are thought to have bred with humans.

Two articles about the study have been published in the journal Science.

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