A skull preserved almost perfectly for more than 140,000 years in northeastern China represents a new species of ancient people more closely related to us than even Neanderthals – and could fundamentally alter our understanding of human evolution, scientists announced on Friday. It belonged to a large-brained male in his 50s with deep-set eyes and thick brow ridges. Though his face was wide, it had flat, low cheekbones that made him resemble modern people more closely than other extinct members of the human family tree.
The research team has linked the specimen to other Chinese fossil findings and is calling the species Homo longi or “Dragon Man,” a reference to the region where it was discovered. The Harbin cranium was first found in 1933 in the city of the same name but was reportedly hidden in a well for 85 years to protect it from the Japanese army.Dragon Man probably lived in a forested floodplain environment as part of a small community. “This population would have been hunter-gatherers, living off the land,” said Stringer. “From the winter temperatures in Harbin today, it looks like they were coping with even harsher cold than the Neanderthals.”
Given the location where the skull was found as well as the large-sized man it implies, the team believe Homo longi may have been well adapted for harsh environments and would have been able to disperse throughout Asia.