Neanderthals would eventually not be the closest relative of modern humans. Scientists who have examined a skull fossil found in China say that the skull belongs to a new prehistoric human species. One is closer to us than Neanderthals.
The researchers, who published their work Friday in the journal The Innovation, say the Harbin skull is the best-preserved fossil from the middle Pleistocene. The fossil dates back to about 146,000 years ago. “In our analyses, the Harbin group is more closely related to Homo sapiens than to Neanderthals,” Chris Stringer told AFP. He is an anthropologist at the London Museum of Natural History and one of the study’s authors.
The genus Homo brings together several extinct species, including Neanderthals and our own species, Homo sapiens. The new species was named homo longi, which literally means “dragonman” and is derived from the name of the province in which it was found.
The skull remained in the hole for decades. “It was hidden by the previous owner there,” said Xijun Ni, one of the study’s lead authors. It came into the hands of Hebei GEO University in China in 2018.
The skull belonged to a man of about 50 years old. The study said: “The combination of an ancient but massive skull cap with a broad but similar Homo sapiens face is astonishing.”
The researchers studied the morphology of the skull by isolating about 600 features, then compared them with those of other fossils using a powerful computer.
“Perhaps these residents were hunters and gatherers,” Stringer said. “Based on current winter temperatures in Harbin, we can assume that they experienced more extreme cold than Neanderthals.”
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