The 146,000-year-old archaic human skull represents a new species

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The 146,000-year-old archaic human skull represents a new species, According to new research described in The Innovation: Homo longi Homo longi is phylogenetically closer to Homo sapiens than it is to Neanderthals or other archaic humans.

Archaic human skull

Reconstruction of Homo longi in his residence. Image credit: Chuang Zhao. A well-preserved ancient human fossil known as the Harbin skull was reportedly discovered when a bridge was built over the Songhua River in Harbin City, Heilongjiang Province, China.

Due to its chaotic recovery and long delay, information on the exact site and fossil layer was lost. The Harbin fossil is one of the most complete human cranial fossils in the world, said Professor Qiang Jie, a paleontologist at Hebei Geo University.

He preserved many morphological details that are important for understanding the evolution of the genus Homo and the origin of Homo sapiens. Harbin’s skull is enormous in size, larger than that of all other known archaic humans. It is also relatively long and short and lacks the roundness of the modern human brain.

It has large, almost square eye sockets, thick eyebrows, a wide mouth, and large teeth. Its endocranial capacity is estimated at 1,420 ml, which falls in the range of Homo sapiens and Neanderthals, and larger than other Homo species such as Homo erectus, Homo naledi, Homo floresiensis, and even some Homo heidelbergensis / Homo rhodesiensis.

It is so distinctive that Professor G and his colleagues have suggested naming the skull after a new species of Homo. He called it homo longi. The species name is derived from the geographical name long jiang, a common use for Heilongjiang province, and literally means ‘dragon river’.

Although displaying typical archaic human features, the Harbin skull features a mosaic combination of primitive and derived characters that is distinct from all other previously named Homo species, said Professor G.

Homo species

Professor Chris Stringer, a paleontologist at the Museum of Natural History, said: “The Harbin skull is very large, it shows the largest or second largest value for many measurements in our comparative fossil database, and its brain volume is 1,420 ml “. in London.

It also has other characteristics similar to our species. It has flat, low cheekbones with a shallow canine fossa, and the face appears low and is hidden under the brain box. The authors believe that the Harbin skull comes from a 50-year-old man who lives in a wooded and flooded environment as part of a small community.

Like Homo sapiens, they hunted mammals and birds, gathered fruits and vegetables, and probably even fished, said Professor Zijun Ni, a paleontologist from Hebei Jiao University and the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

Using sophisticated geochemical analyzes including rare earth elements, strontium isotopic ratios and X-ray fluorescence, and direct dating of the Ur series, the researchers dated the fossil to at least 146,000 years, placing it in the Middle Pleistocene. human species. Travel.

They speculate that Homo longi and Homo sapiens may have been found during this time. Although it is impossible to pin the skull in a precise location with currently available technology, all evidence suggests that it was from a water-filled sediment bed in the Harbin region between the ages of 138,000 and 309,000 years ago, Dr. Said said. Juni Jie, a geochemist at the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

Geochemist Dr. Qingfeng Shao from Nanjing Normal University said: “We are now certain that the fossil is more than 146,000 years old. We see many evolutionary lineages of Homo species and populations coexisting in Asia, Africa and Europe during that time, he said. Professor Stringer.

So if Homo sapiens really did arrive in East Asia that early, they may have had a chance to interact with Homo longi, and since we don’t know when the Harbin group disappeared, there may have been a later encounter as well. Scientists also discovered that Homo longi is one of our closest hominin relatives, more closely related to us than Neanderthals.

Neanderthals are widely believed to belong to an extinct lineage that is the closest relative of our own species, Professor Nee said. However, our finding suggests that the new lineage we identified, which includes Homo longi, is the true sister group to Homo sapiens.

The Harbin Cranium sheds new light on the debate over the diversification of the genus Homo and the origin of Homo sapiens. The team’s reconstruction of the human tree of life also suggests that the common ancestor we share with Neanderthals existed even before our time.

Homo sapiens and Neanderthals

“The divergence time between Homo sapiens and Neanderthals may be deeper than a million years in overall evolutionary history,” said Professor Nee. If true, we split from Neanderthals about 400,000 years earlier than scientists thought.

Neanderthals are widely believed to form the sister group to the sapiens lineage, Professor Stringer said. But our analyzes suggest that the Harbin skull from China and some other Middle Pleistocene human fossils form a third East Asian lineage, which is actually closer to sapiens than Neanderthals.

Thus, the excellent preservation of the Harbin skull sheds new light on the evolution of the genus Homo. It is estimated that the Middle Pleistocene epoch places him as an Asian contemporary of the evolved lineages of Homo sapiens, Homo neanderthalensis, and Denisovan. It may also be representative of the mysterious Denisovans, but that’s something for the next stages of the investigation.

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