Who Are They? Unearthed Ancient Skull Reveals Previously Unknown Human Species

Mar 06, 2017 05:47 AM EST

Two partial skulls have been unearthed in China, and a Chinese-U.S. team of researchers speculates that it might belong to a previously unknown human relative.

According to the team, the fossils which they labeled "archaic Homo," share combined features of Neanderthals, earlier eastern Eurasian humans and modern humans.

The fragments of the skulls were excavated in two separate times, one in 2007 and the other in 2014, in Lingjing located in China's Henan province. The place was believed to have been occupied 105,000 to 125,000 years ago, during the Pleistocene period.

The findings published in journal Science note that the fragments excavated are distinct enough to be classified as an entirely different species. It has the ear canals of Neanderthals, eastern Eurasian humans' low and flat brainpans and modern humans' modest brow lines and large brain capacity, but it is neither a Neanderthal nor a human.

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Read Also: Ancient Neanderthals Still Strongly Influence Human Genes 30,000 Years Post-Extinction

Ancient bones of horses, cattle, woolly rhinoceros and giant deer were also found near the remains, indicating that the owners of the skulls are skilled hunters. But what is interesting about the discovery is that many other experts think that what the team has found belong to Denisovans, who are allegedly cousins of Neanderthals and at some point might have interbred with ancient humans.

Because of the lack of fossil record to determine Denisovans' characteristics, its current status is pending as either species or subspecies. What is known is that they existed to approximately 100,000 to 50,000 years ago and have been to China as modern humans living in China contain around 0.1 percent Denisovan DNA, Science Alert reported.

"This would be the combination that one would expect based on the ancient DNA analysis of Denisovans, who were closely related to Neanderthals," Neanderthal expert Katerina Harvati from the University of Tübingen in Germany, also unrelated to the discovery, told the Washington Post.

Meanwhile, the team didn't mention Denisovans in their research as they have not gathered any DNA evidence to prove otherwise.

Read Also: Interbreeding with Neanderthals, Denisovans Helped Ancient Human Ancestors to Survive Outside Africa

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