Dragon Man :
Paleoanthropologists found a fossilized skull of a new human species which may be our closest ancestor than Neandertals.
The fossil is the remains of a male nicknamed ‘Dragon Man’ and does not belong to any Homo species previously known. The research report was published in The Innovation.
Qiang Ji, a paleontologist at the Geoscience Museum of Hebei GEO University in Shijiazhuang, China, stated that the skull was received from a farmer in 2018.
The farmer claimed that the skull was dug up by his grandfather’s coworker from the river sediment in 1933 while constructing a bridge over a river in Harbin, China, and was hid in an abandoned well to keep it away from the Japanese at that time. The farmer was informed about the well by his grandfather before his last breath.
“The Harbin Cranium presents a combination of features setting it apart from other Homo species,” Ji said.
Dragon Man is named Homo longi derived from a Chinese term that translates “dragon river” of the province.
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The Dragon Man’s skull was relatively larger compared to the modern Homo sapiens. The skull’s traits included thick brow ridges, a short face, large molars, and roughly square eye-sockets.
The team stated that the Dragon Man species lived during the Middle Pleistocene period that was between 789,000 to 130,000 years ago.
Based on the analysis of the radioactive decay of uranium in the Dragon Man’s skull, the team estimated that it was roughly 146,000 years old.
Image credit: Chuang Zhao | Eurekalert.org
Further chemical analysis of the Harbin skull revealed traces of sediment found in the Harbin region.
The researchers determined the evolutionary ladder of the Dragon Man by studying the data of other Homo fossils of the Middle Pleistocene era from Asia, Africa, and Europe.
And the yielded result stated that Homo longi (Dragon Man) along with the Homo sapiens had common ancestors around 949,000 years ago, whereas Neandertals and Homo Sapiens shared common ancestors over one million years ago further intensifying the claim that Homo longi were the closest ancestor than the Neandertals.
The study of the geographical distribution of fossils of the Middle Pleistocene period shows that groups from different populations and species that moved within Asia, Africa, and Europe interbred sometimes, passing on genes and traits over vast distances, the team said.
However, Paleoanthropologist Sheela Athreya of Texas A&M University who was not involved in studies argued that the Harbin skull looks much like several other Middle Pleistocene Homo fossils from northern China and shouldn’t be classified as a new species.
Dragon Man is now housed in the Geoscience Museum of Hebei GEO University in Shijiazhuang, China.