The layperson often assumes that human ancestry is a settled matter, but this is far from accurate. Adding to the intrigue, an ancient skull is currently perplexing scientists due to its dissimilarities from the features of modern humans.
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According to a report from Science Alert, the enigmatic skull belonged to a child who lived approximately 300,000 years ago.
Collaborating with researchers from China’s Xi’an Jiaotong University, the UK’s University of York, and Spain’s National Research Center on Human Evolution, experts from the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) suggest that this discovery might potentially represent the identification of a new branch within the human evolutionary tree.
The astounding finding
In 2019, the skull under scrutiny was unearthed, accompanied by a jaw and leg bones. These discoveries were made in Hualondong, located in East China, and pertain to a child estimated to be between 12 and 13 years old.
What perplexes scientists is their inability to align it with any established human lineage. The skull bears no resemblance to Neanderthals, Denisovans, or our own modern human category. Nevertheless, it does share certain characteristics with distinct lineages. This implies the possibility of requiring an additional branch in the hominin or human family tree.
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According to research published in the Journal of Human Evolution, the skull is nearly complete, comprising a partial cranium and an almost intact mandible. Its structure bears similarities to the modern human lineage.
In their analysis, the researchers note that while the facial features exhibit similarities to modern humans, the limbs, skull cap, and jaw “appear to display more primitive characteristics.”
Moreover, it lacks a chin, resembling the characteristics of a Denisovan, an extinct lineage that once inhabited Asia.
This adds complexity to the identification process. The skull appears to be a combination of physical traits, indicating the simultaneous existence of three distinct lineages in Asia: H. erectus, Denisovan, and this newfound lineage that is “phylogenetically close” to us.
What is the name of this new human?
The classification of this alleged novel hominin lineage remains pending for scientists. Currently, they have assigned it the designation HLD 6, with HLD denoting its discovery site in Hualongdong.
The emergence of Homo sapiens, or “wise humans,” in China occurred a mere 120,000 years ago.
The skull, unearthed by specialists and as indicated by researchers from CAS, could potentially signify a significant revelation—the identification of an entirely fresh lineage. This lineage might represent a hybrid between the ancestral line that led to modern humans and the lineage responsible for other prehistoric hominins in the same geographical region.
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