While the release of the Pentagon report on UAPs put a damper on finding new intelligent species from other planets, archeologists are busy finding new species of humans right here on Earth. Shortly after the blockbuster find of a jaw and partial skull of a Neanderthal ancestor named Nesher Ramla Homo in Israel, researchers in China rediscovered a massive skull lost for 90 years that appears to be the cranium of a new Homo species that is the closest relative of modern humans. Does this change everything that was just changed a few days ago?
“The Harbin fossil is one of the most complete human cranial fossils in the world. This fossil preserved many morphological details that are critical for understanding the evolution of the Homo genus and the origin of Homo sapiens.”
This discovery is so big, it prompted Qiang Ji, a professor of paleontology of Hebei GEO University, to co-author three separate papers about it in the journal The Innovation. In 1933 in Harbin, a city it north-east China’s Heilongjiang province, the skull was reportedly found by a construction worker working on a bridge on the Songhua river – Songhua means ‘Black Dragon’. Fearing that China’s Japanese occupiers at that time would confiscate it, the man was said to have hidden it in a family well, only telling his family about it right before he died in 2018. Fortunately, they did the right thing and contacted archeologists who recovered the well-preserved skull which, unlike Neanderthals and other ancient Homo species, was as large as modern human heads.
“While it shows typical archaic human features, the Harbin cranium presents a mosaic combination of primitive and derived characters setting itself apart from all the other previously-named Homo species.”
Ji explains in a press release that, while its hat size was the same as that of modern humans, the species had larger, almost square eye sockets, thick brow ridges, a wide mouth, and oversized teeth – enough to prompt him to call it a new species he named Homo longi or Dragon Man – ‘long’ means dragon. (Photos here.) His research team dated the skull to at least 146,000 years in the Middle Pleistocene, a time of migration for other Homo species, which means H. longi and H. sapiens could have been in the area at the same time. Co-author Xijun Ni, a professor of primatology and paleoanthropology at the Chinese Academy of Sciences and Hebei GEO University, thinks the relationship may have been even closer than just a chance meeting in Harbin.
“It is widely believed that the Neanderthal belongs to an extinct lineage that is the closest relative of our own species. However, our discovery suggests that the new lineage we identified that includes Homo longi is the actual sister group of H. sapiens.”
Ni thinks the divergence time between H. sapiens and the Neanderthals may have occurred over one million years ago, putting it 400,000 years earlier than scientists commonly believe. However, co-author Chris Stringer, research leader at the Natural History Museum in London, isn’t convinced just yet that Dragon Man is indeed a new species or simply a variation of another one found in Dali county in China in 1978.
“I prefer to call it Homo daliensis, but it’s not a big deal. The important thing is the third lineage of later humans that are separate from Neanderthals and separate from Homo sapiens.”
As with other ancient human species, it will be difficult to trace lineage because of all of the inbreeding that took place between them. While the discovery of Dragon Man is probably a “this changes everything” moment, it also reinforces the fact that, when it comes to humans and sex, some things never change.