A new species of prehistoric man closer to us than Neanderthals

Harbin’s skull is particularly well preserved: it constitutes the best preserved fossil of this period (Middle Pleistocene), according to the researchers who published their work in the journal Friday. The Innovation. It dates from around 146,000 years ago.

According to our analyzes, the Harbin group is more closely related to Homo sapiens than the Neanderthals are., told theAFP Chris Stringer, paleoanthropologist at the Natural History Museum in London and one of the co-authors of the study. That is, Harbin shared a more recent common ancestor with us than the Neanderthals.

Chris Stringer, and 2018.

Photo : Reuters / Shawn Baldwin

The genus Homo includes many extinct species, including Neanderthals, as well as our own, Homo sapiens, the only one now inhabiting the Earth.

Two discoveries that come together

A new species of prehistoric man recently discovered in Israel challenges the privileged thesis that Neanderthals emerged in Europe before migrating south, Israeli researchers said Thursday.

Homo longi, the dragon man

The new species was named Homo longi, which literally means dragon man, a derivative of the name of the province where it was found.

The skull was allegedly discovered in 1933 by a man working for the Japanese, who then occupied the region, during the construction of a bridge near the city of Harbin, in northeast China. .

Realizing the value of his find and not wanting it to fall into Japanese hands, the man decided to hide the skull in a well for a very long time, explained to theAFP Xijun Ni, one of the lead authors of the study.

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Donation to the university in 2018

Learning decades later of his secret, this man’s descendants finally donated the skull to Hebei University GEO in 2018.

The skull is a priori that of a man in his fifties, belonging to a population of hunter-gatherers.

His browbones are very large, as are his nose, almost square eye sockets and upper jaw. But it features delicate, flat cheekbones.

The combination of an archaic but bulky cranial vault, and a broad face but similar to Homo sapiens, is striking. [Cet ossement] differs from all other Homo species.

A quote from:Extract from the study

These prehistoric humans were presumably tall and hardy.

Based on winter temperatures in Harbin today, one might think they faced even more intense cold than Neanderthals., this Chris Stringer. This probably required both physical and cultural adaptations, but we cannot say more at this time, as we do not have any associated archaeological material. to this remnant of Homo longi.

The researchers studied the morphology of the skull by isolating some 600 characteristic features which they then compared using a powerful computer with those of other bones, in order to build a sort of huge family tree.

According to them, other specimens found in Asia (Dali, Jinniushan, Hualongdong, Xiahe) also belong to this new species.

Several human species

Over 100,000 years ago, several human species coexisted on Earth across Europe, Africa and Asia, including Homo sapiens and Neanderthals.

This discovery establishes a third human lineage in East Asia alongside these last two and shows the importance of this region for human evolution, insisted Chris Stringer.

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One of the questions that remain to be clarified is whether this line is linked to the Denisovans, another species that evolved during this period, recently discovered thanks to DNA analyzes.

I think it is quite possible that this skull [d’Harbin] either a Denisovan skull […] but it’s still going to take a lot of work to prove it.

A quote from:Chris Stringer, paléoanthropologue

The dragon men may have also been able to meet Homo sapiens, he believes.

If the Harbin group forms a single group with the Denisovans, then we know that they did indeed breed with Neanderthals and our own species., underlined the researcher.