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This past week news of a new human species has caught the Internet in a whirlwind. An analysis of fossils originally found in southwest China in 1979 has revealed a new type of people that previously inhabited the area.
The bones of the new species were large and thick, much more so than modern peoples’. The recovered skull shows off the species’ easily noticeable brow ridges, their small, flat and short face and also reveals the species lacked a human-like chin.
Darren Curnoe, a researcher at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia, was quoted for saying, “In short, it is anatomically unique among all members of the human evolutionary tree.” The skull also blends together a mix of primitive traits present in Homo sapiens’ early ancestors and characteristics found only in modern man.
Christened the ‘Red Deer Cave’ -people because of ample archeological evidence that venison was a large staple of their diet, the find has proven a prediction laid down by evolutionary biologists years ago that new human species would turn up in Asia as scientists examined and looked into more and more fossils from the area.
It is unknown where exactly the Red Deer Cave people fit into modern man’s family tree. Curnoe thinks that they may be related to some of the earliest members of Homo sapiens, which came about in Africa around 200,000 years ago and then crossed over into Asia, eventually coming to modern day China.
He believes it is much more likely, though, that they are a new and distinct evolutionary line that evolved in East Asia at the same time as Homo sapiens, much like Neanderthals. This idea is mostly due to the Red Deer Cave people looking vastly different from ancient African members of the human race.
Other researchers have offered their own different hypotheses. One likely theory, posited by Christ Stinger from the Natural History Museum in London, is that they are related to the Denisovan people, who are thought to have lived in Siberia and eastern Asia. It is known that the Denisovans mated with early Homo sapiens; the Red Deer Cave people could be the result of such a pairing.
Other information about the people suggests that they survived until recently, with their remains seemingly just 11,500 years old, meaning they outlasted their more famous brethren, the Neanderthals.
The question remains, though: were the Red Deer Cave people a new race, or merely a product of two races’ breeding? The first attempt at extracting good DNA from the bones ended in failure. More work is continuing now. Will they be successful? Curnoe says, “We’ll just have to wait and see.”