Several scientific groups immediately announced the discovery of the remains of a species transitional between Homo erectus, intelligent and its extinct relatives. It is possible that several sister evolutionary lineages existed in China and the Middle East at the same time as Homo sapiens. All of this greatly complicates the history of the human race.
Discovery of a new kind of people
In 1933, during the reconstruction of a bridge in the Chinese city of Harbin, almost a whole skull of an ancient man was found. Only in 2018 it was transferred to the Geological University of Hubei Province. Three articles in the Innovation magazine are devoted to the description of the find.
The skull is very massive, with archaic features that make it akin to humans, both erectus and Heidelberg. At the same time, the large vault contained a large brain, the face was almost like ours, only wider. A number of details resemble skulls found earlier in China. But the only surviving tooth looks more like Denisov's.
All this explosive mixture of antiquity and modernity did not allow attributing the find to any known species of sapiens, so the authors of the study decided that this was his sister line. She was named Homo longi, which means "dragon man".
The skull was in layers formed 800-100 thousand years ago. Information about the exact location, stratigraphy has not been preserved, and in order to clarify the age, the scientists analyzed the content of rare elements, the ratio of strontium isotopes in the rock disseminations. Compared with the results of studying the bones of humans and other mammals, presumably from the same horizons. In addition, the microsamples from the skull were dated by the thorium-uranium method. It turned out that the "dragon man" is at least 146 thousand years old. Then on the territory of China lived people of an unknown species, whose remains were found in Chinnyushan, Dali, Hualundong cave. Denisovans lived in the high-mountainous Baishya cave.
The appearance of the "dragon man" was reconstructed. He was a chubby man in his fifties with a low forehead, overhanging brow ridges and a wide nose. Most likely, the skin, hair, and eyes were dark, like those of the Neanderthals, Denisovans, and early Sapiens.
Image of the "dragon man". Judging by the skull, this representative of early Homo combined archaic and advanced features, and his tooth resembles those found in the Baishya cave and is identified by DNA as Denisovan.
When Homo sapiens left Africa
Some consider the early humans in China to be transitional from Homo erectus to the Asian lineage with modern anatomy. The authors of the work about Homo longi have a different opinion: the "dragon man" is an independent branch that arose in Africa about a million years ago.
Not having in their hands the analysis of ancient DNA, scientists applied the Bayesian approach - a mathematical method that allows you to build an evolutionary tree from heterogeneous initial data. According to calculations, Homo sapiens lived on the territory of China 400 thousand years ago. This contradicts the results obtained earlier.
Skulls from left to right: Peking Homo erectus, archaic people from the cave of Maba, Chinnyushan, Dali, "dragon man". Chinese researchers attribute the last four skulls to a special Asian line, akin to sapiens.
In 1978, in the Apidyma Cave in northern Greece, during excavations, they stumbled upon two incomplete human skulls and fragments of bones. Anthropologists determined that one belonged to early Homo sapiens, the other to a Neanderthal. The uranium-thorium method showed the age of the find - 210 thousand years. This is the most ancient intelligent man outside the ancestral home. However, some researchers doubt that the skulls from Harbin and Apidima can be attributed to Homo sapiens, and the dating is also criticized.
And now a new sensation - in Israel, in the Nesher Ramla cave, several fragments of a skull, 140-120 thousand years old, were found. They combine archaic and advanced Neanderthal traits, so scientists consider them as a special ancestral line of this kind of people. And given the details in common with two more species of people, a hypothesis suggests itself about a special line of Neanderthal ancestors, which separated about 400 thousand years ago and ended its existence in Nesher Ramla. At the same time, to the north of them, the Sapiens already settled in the caves.
So far, the history of the human race is rather confusing and far from complete. This is due to the many finds not only in Europe and Africa, but also in the Middle East, in China. And, of course, this is not the limit. Different degrees of preservation, a variety of techniques open up a wide scope for interpretation. One thing is clear: for the last 200 thousand years, the planet has been inhabited by many populations of ancient people, including Homo sapiens. They migrated actively, exchanged technologies, and possibly crossed.
Finds of different species of Homo. The most ancient - Homo erectus and Heidelberg, were replaced by many populations of people, possibly of different species, formed in the Middle Pleistocene. The Harbin man is a typical representative of this variety.