Having characteristics of both humans and other more distantly related hominids, this 300,000 year old skull was discovered in China, suggesting that a new branch on the human evolutionary tree may have lived there.
Lower jaw bones dating back to 300,000 years ago were found by archaeologists in China and may have belonged to a previously unidentified human progenitor, suggesting a new long-lost distant relative of humans. According to the Journal of Human Evolution, the lower jaw parts unearthed belonged to a child between the ages of 12 and 13 and could be from the late Middle Pleistocene.
The earliest known human remains are from Africa, where humans first appeared hundreds of thousands of years ago. After that, they spread to other parts of the world. But since Homo erectus first stood upright some two million years ago, there have been dozens of additional hominid species, and this comes after hundreds of thousands of years of evolution.
Numerous hominids from the late Middle Pleistocene have been discovered in China. The discoveries discussed in this study stand out among them and could alter how we perceive the evolutionary trend of that time.
In studying the fossil found in Hualongdong in 2015, they compared it with modern humans and other hominids from that time.
The facial structure of the skull, in instance, resembled modern people in certain ways. Other features of the skull, however, appear to greatly diverge. The most obvious of these changes is the absence of a chin, which this hominid may have shared with the Denisovans, a distant relative of humans that split off from the rest of the species hundreds of thousands of years ago in terms of evolution.
As humans were still in Africa at the time, this would imply that human-like traits had to have appeared in China long before any of them arrived in the country.
This type of characteristic is unheard of in late Middle Pleistocene China and shares traits with both contemporary humans and other more ancient hominids like Denisovans. Then again, it might not be.
One thing the researchers have discovered is that some of these variations have been found in hominid bones from this time period in China before. owever, these have been often dismissed as being likely just individual anomalies rather than signs of a greater overall trend. These results, however, suggest that there might be more at play.
“The data presented suggest a distinctive combination of features that supports the idea of a third human lineage in China, not sapiens nor Neanderthal,” London Natural History Museum human evolution research leader Chris Stringer.
This demonstrates how gradual and varied our development may have been, which has significant implications for our understanding of how humans have changed over time.
Given how numerous hominids were before to the appearance of Homo sapiens, it is conceivable that the hominid family tree contained more branches that have not yet been discovered.