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Scientists unearth fossil closely related to modern humans in China

Scientists unearth fossil closely related to modern humans in China

After finding a perfectly fossilised human skull in China, scientists are convinced that there is a previously unknown species more closely related to modern humans than the Neanderthals.

The skull is being called the sign of an undiscovered human species. Chinese researchers have named Homo longi (Dragon Man). An international team led by Prof Qiang Ji at the Hebei Geo University in China determined that the bones are at least 146,000 years old, reported The Guardian.

The Harbin skull is a unique combination of primitive and modern features. The face resembles very much modern humans aka Homo sapiens. However, it is much larger and has more room for the brain. It is 23 cm long and 25 cm wide. There appear to be thick brow bridges and large square eye sockets. However, experts think that the eye socket is delicate.

Researchers speculate that the skull belongs to a 50-year-old male. The wide nose, which would have allowed it to breathe in a huge volume of air, indicates a high-energy lifestyle. Prof Xijun Ni, a paleoanthropologist at Hebei said that Homo longi is "heavily built, very robust". The massive head indicates a height taller than modern humans.

Research leader at the Natural History Museum in London, Prof. Chris Stringer called it a wonderfully preserved fossil and one of the most important finds of evolutionary science in the past 50 years. Even though he is not convinced that the skull is distinct enough to be called a new species, he agrees that it belongs to the third lineage of later humans that are separate from the Neanderthals and Homo sapiens.

Chris Stringer told The Guardian that the Harbin skull may belong to a group of extinct humans called Denisovan. They are largely known from the DNA in the bone fragments recovered from Siberia. He added that more skeletal material is needed for analysis.

The skull was found hidden in Chinese well. It was originally found in 1933Chinese labourers building a bridge over the Songhua River in Harbin. Since it was the period of Japanese occupation, someone hid it in the well to prevent it from falling into Japanese possession. The skull, being dubbed as Harbin skull, resurfaced in 2018 after the man who hid it revealed the location to his grandson, said The Guardian report.

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