The remains of what may be a previously unknown human species have been identified in southern China. The bones, which represent at least five individuals, have been dated to between 11,500 and 14,500 years ago. But scientists are calling them simply the Red Deer Cave people, after one of the sites where they were unearthed.
The team has told the PLoS One journal that far more detailed analysis of the fossils is required before they can be ascribed to a new human lineage.
“We’re trying to be very careful at this stage about definitely classifying them,” said study co-leader Darren Curnoe from the University of New South Wales, Australia.
“One of the reasons for that is that in the science of human evolution or palaeoanthropology, we presently don’t have a generally agreed, biological definition for our own species (Homo sapiens), believe it or not. And so this is a highly contentious area,” he told BBC News
But their features are quite distinct from what you might call a fully modern human, says the team. Instead, the Red Deer Cave people have a mix of archaic and modern characteristics.In general, the individuals had rounded brain cases with prominent brow ridges. Their skull bones were quite thick. Their faces were quite short and flat and tucked under the brain, and they had broad noses. Their jaws jutted forward but they lacked a modern-human-like chin. Computed Tomography (X-ray) scans of their brain cavities indicate they had modern-looking frontal lobes but quite archaic-looking anterior, or parietal, lobes. They also had large molar teeth.
Edited from Human fossils hint at new species.