Homo longi (Dragon Man)

The earliest evidence of early modern man (used to be called Cro-Magnon Man) in China dates to around 100,000 to 40,000 years ago. What took place between the arrival of the first hominins in Asia roughly 2 million years ago and the earliest modern man is very sketchy, ambiguous and confusing. Many of the hominin fossils found in China from this period are very strange and some of them have been labeled new species.

Some scientists believe the unusual fossils coming out of China, dated from 300,000 to 100,00 years ago, are from Denisovans, Neanderthal-like humans that are known only from a tooth and finger bone found in Siberia and a jawbone found in Tibet. According to the Washington Post: Denisovans exist mainly as sequenced DNA taken from finger bone and a tooth found in the Siberian cave. Thought to have lived some 100,000 to 50,000 years ago, the Denisovans shared genetic material with humans as well as Neanderthals. A 2015 analysis of the specimen scraps indicated that the Denisovans lived for some 60,000 years side-by-side with Neanderthals and humans in Asia.

According to to Business Insider: Archaic Homo sapien fossils often carry a mixture of old facial structures and modern features so that timeline is a bit more complicated than school books would have us think. That's the case, for instance, for remains found in Morocco in 2017 from about 300,000 years ago with Homo sapien-like features which suggested humans might have emerged much earlier than previously thought. Recent findings of archaic human remains in Israel and Greece dating back about 200,000 years also suggested human ancestors might have left Africa a lot earlier than previously thought. There's also paleontological and genetic evidence that suggests ancient humans interbred with the Neanderthals and Denisovans, their cousins, further complicating the bloodlines. [Source: Marianne Guenot, Business Insider, August 7, 2023].

Hualong Cave — in Pangwang village in Dongzhi County, Anhui Province, China, and situated on the southern bank of Yangtze on the side of Meiyuan Hill — has interested scientists since 2004 when a farmer accidentally found bones that were later identified as mammalian fossils. Excavations started in 2006 by scientists from the Chinese Academy of Sciences yielded many stone tools and over 30 human fossils, and animal bones including those of elephant-like stegodons, giant tapirs, and giant pandas. A Homo erectus fossil (dubbed Dongzhi Man) was described in 2014; a 300,000-year-old archaic human was discovered in 2019. Paleolithic age tools include bone tools used for cutting animals but not for hunting. Of the more than 100 stone tools discovered, scrapers were the most abundant tools.

In 2019 a discovery of 16 human fossils was announced which were estimated to be about 300,000 years old. The fossil assemblage included 8 cranial elements, seven isolated teeth, three femoral diaphyseal pieces, and major portions of an adolescent skull (designated HLD 6, HLD for Hualongdong).

Mysteries and Confusion Regarding Human Evolution in Asia and China

One theory of dispersal routes out of Africa

The fossil evidence from the period between Peking Man, roughly 1 million to 500,000 years ago, and the earliest modern human found in China, roughly 40,000 years ago is scarce and often confusing and ambiguous. “It is the least understood episode in human evolution, Russell Ciochon, a palaeoanthropologist at the University of Iowa, told Nature. “But it's central to our understanding of humanity's ultimate origin.” Jane Qiy wrote: “The tale is further muddled by Chinese fossils analysed over the past four decades, which cast doubt over the linear progression from African H. erectus to modern humans. They show that, between roughly 900,000 and 125,000 years ago, east Asia was teeming with hominins endowed with features that would place them somewhere between H. erectus and H. sapiens, says Wu Xinzhi, a palaeontologist at the Chinese Academy of Sciences' Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology (IVPP) in Beijing. “Those fossils are a big mystery,” says Ciochon. “They clearly represent more advanced species than H. erectus, but nobody knows what they are because they don't seem to fit into any categories we know.” [Source: Jane Qiu, Nature magazine, July 13, 2016 |:|]

The fossils' transitional characteristics have prompted researchers such as Stringer to lump them with H. heidelbergensis. Because the oldest of these forms, two skulls uncovered in Yunxian in Hubei province, date back 900,000 years, Stringer even suggests that H. heidelbergensis might have originated in Asia and then spread to other continents. But many researchers, including most Chinese palaeontologists, contend that the materials from China are different from European and African H. heidelbergensis fossils, despite some apparent similarities. One nearly complete skull unearthed at Dali in Shaanxi province and dated to 250,000 years ago, has a bigger braincase, a shorter face and a lower cheekbone than most H. heidelbergensis specimens, suggesting that the species was more advanced. |:|

“Such transitional forms persisted for hundreds of thousands of years in China, until species appeared with such modern traits that some researchers have classified them as H. sapiens. One of the most recent of these is represented by two teeth and a lower jawbone, dating to about 100,000 years ago, unearthed in 2007 by IVPP palaeoanthropologist Liu Wu and his colleagues. Discovered in Zhirendong, a cave in Guangxi province, the jaw has a classic modern-human appearance, but retains some archaic features of Peking Man, such as a more robust build and a less-protruding chin. |:|

Theories on Evolution of Modern Man in China

Jane Qiu wrote in Nature: “Many researchers say that there are ways to explain the existing Asian fossils without resorting to continuity with hybridization. The Zhirendong hominins, for instance, could represent an exodus of early modern humans from Africa between 120,000 and 80,000 years ago. Instead of remaining in the Levant in the Middle East, as was thought previously, these people could have expanded into east Asia, says Michael Petraglia, an archaeologist at the University of Oxford, UK. [Source: Jane Qiu, Nature magazine, July 13, 2016 |:|]

to Australia “Other evidence backs up this hypothesis: excavations at a cave in Daoxian in China's Hunan province have yielded 47 fossil teeth so modern-looking that they could have come from the mouths of people today. But the fossils are at least 80,000 years old, and perhaps 120,000 years old, Liu and his colleagues reported last year. “Those early migrants may have interbred with archaic populations along the way or in Asia, which could explain Zhirendong people's primitive traits,” says Petraglia. |:|

Another possibility is that some of the Chinese fossils, including the Dali skull, represent the mysterious Denisovans, a species identified from Siberian fossils that are more than 40,000 years old. Palaeontologists don't know what the Denisovans looked like, but studies of DNA recovered from their teeth and bones indicate that this ancient population contributed to the genomes of modern humans, especially Australian Aborigines, Papua New Guineans and Polynesians — suggesting that Denisovans might have roamed Asia. |:|

“María Martinón-Torres, a palaeoanthropologist at University College London, is among those who proposed that some of the Chinese hominins were Denisovans. She worked with IVPP researchers on an analysis, published last year, of a fossil assemblage uncovered at Xujiayao in Hebei province — including partial jaws and nine teeth dated to 125,000–100,000 years ago. The molar teeth are massive, with very robust roots and complex grooves, reminiscent of those from Denisovans, she says. |:|

Another theory on dispersal of modern man in Asia

“A third idea is even more radical. It emerged when Martinón-Torres and her colleagues compared more than 5,000 fossil teeth from around the world: the team found that Eurasian specimens are more similar to each other than to African ones. That work and more recent interpretations of fossil skulls suggest that Eurasian hominins evolved separately from African ones for a long stretch of time. The researchers propose that the first hominins that left Africa 1.8 million years ago were the eventual source of modern humans. Their descendants mostly settled in the Middle East, where the climate was favourable, and then produced waves of transitional hominins that spread elsewhere. One Eurasian group went to Indonesia, another gave rise to Neanderthals and Denisovans, and a third ventured back into Africa and evolved into H. sapiens, which later spread throughout the world. In this model, modern humans evolved in Africa, but their immediate ancestor originated in the Middle East. |:|

“Not everybody is convinced. “Fossil interpretations are notoriously problematic,” says Svante Pääbo, a palaeogeneticist at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany. But DNA from Eurasian fossils dating to the start of the human race could help to reveal which story — or combination — is correct. China is now making a push in that direction. Qiaomei Fu, a palaeogeneticist who did her PhD with Pääbo, returned home last year to establish a lab to extract and sequence ancient DNA at the IVPP. One of her immediate goals is to see whether some of the Chinese fossils belong to the mysterious Denisovan group. The prominent molar teeth from Xujiayao will be an early target. “I think we have a prime suspect here,” she says.” |:|

Strange 300,000-Year-Old Skull from an East China Teenager Baffles Scientists

In 2019, a 300,000-year-old skull of a child about 12 or 13 years old was uncovered in Hualong Cave in Dongzhi County at Anhui Province iin East China in along with a leg bone. The ancient skull is unlike anything scientists had seen before. The unusual shape of the teen's head doesn't fit with any of the early human relatives so far recorded and some scientists therefore have concluded it belongs to a new species.

Business Insider reported: Researchers think the individual, known only as HDL 6, is a mix between modern humans and an unknown hominin that existed in China at that time, Science Alert reported. The skull has facial features that are similar to early modern humans, which scientists think began to branch away from another human ancestor known as Homo erectus sometime between 550,000 and 750,000 years ago. But its limbs, skull cap, and recessed chin "seem to reflect more primitive traits," Xiujie Wu, a paleontologist from the Chinese Academy of Sciences wrote in an analysis of the bones published July 31, 2023. [Source: Marianne Guenot, Business Insider, August 7, 2023].

These features are closer to a Denisovan's facial structure, a now-extinct branch of East Asian hominins that split from Neanderthals about 400,000 years ago. This strange skull shape has "never been recorded in late Middle Pleistocene hominin fossil assemblages in East Asia," scientists said in a recent analysis. It is possible that the finding could rewrite what we know of human lineages in the area. It suggests Denisovan, Homo erectus, and this new lineage which is "phylogenetically close" to us may have co-existed in East Asia, per Science Alert.

250,000-Year-Old Dali Man

Dali Man replica

Dali man refers to the fossil of a late Homo erectus or archaic Homo sapiens who lived in the late-mid Pleistocene epoch. The remains consist of a a complete skull discovered by Liu Shuntang in 1978 in Dali County, Shaanxi Province, China. Dating the skull is a matter of debate. While uranium-series dating of ox teeth from the same site in 1994 obtained a date of 210,000 year old is unclear whether the hominid cranium and the ox teeth date from a similar era. A new analysis performed in 2017 used a variety of methods, arriving at an age estimate of about 260,000 years old. The fossil is considered to be the most complete skull of that time period found in China. [Source: Wikipedia]

The Dali cranium interests paleontologists and anthropologists because it may be a well-preserved example of archaic Homo sapiens; it has a mixture of traits from Homo erectus and Homo sapiens. However, the details of the face and skull are distinct from European Neanderthals and earlier European hominids, such as remains found in Petralona cave and Atapuerca.

The skull is low and long, though the posterior end of the skull is rounded, unlike the contemporary broad-based H. erectus or top-wide skull of modern humans. The face is topped by massive brow ridges. The ridges curve over each eye, unlike the straight bar-like ridges seen at the Peking man material from Zhoukoudian. The curvature is more similar structurally to the brow ridges in archaic humans from Europe and Africa. The cheek bones are delicate, and the nasal bone flattened, a curious combination of traits

An assortment of primitive Homo skulls have tentatively been grouped with the Dali find. These include Maba Man, a 120,000- to 140 000-year old fragmentary skull from Guangdong in China. It and Dali Man have the same general contours of the forehead. A partial female skeleton with skull from Jinniushan, China seems to belong to the same group. It is characterized by a very robust skull cap but less robust skull base. A possibly fourth member could be the Narmada skull from the Madhya Pradesh in India, consisting of a single robust cranial vault. Some have also raised the possibility that maybe Dali Man is a Denisovan like some of the others in this article.

190,000-Year-Old Hominin Bone Found in the Sea 25 Kilometers Offshore from Taiwan

In January 2015, a jawbone thought to be from an early hominin species was found in seas off Taiwan. Jiji Press reported: “The mandible, fished up from the Penghu submarine channel, some 25 kilometers off the western shore of Taiwan, has been dated at between 190,000 and 450,000 years old, according to the group, which includes researchers from the National Museum of Nature and Science in Tokyo, Kyoto University and Taiwan’s National Museum of Natural Science. [Source: Jiji Press, January 28, 2015 ==]

“The jaw and teeth appear stronger and more primitive than specimens from two other Homo erectus, Java Man and Peking Man. It is also different from Homo floresiensis, the so-called “hobbit” hominin, whose fossilized remains were found on the Indonesian island of Flores in 2003, according to the group. “==

In the abstract to an article published in Nature under the title “The first archaic Homo from Taiwan”, Taiwanese and Japanese researchers wrote: Recent studies of an increasing number of hominin fossils highlight regional and chronological diversities of archaic Homo in the Pleistocene of eastern Asia. However, such a realization is still based on limited geographical occurrences mainly from Indonesia, China and Russian Altai. Here we describe a newly discovered archaic Homo mandible from Taiwan (Penghu 1), which further increases the diversity of Pleistocene Asian hominins. Penghu 1 revealed an unexpectedly late survival (younger than 450 but most likely 190–10 thousand years ago) of robust, apparently primitive dentognathic morphology in the periphery of the continent, which is unknown among the penecontemporaneous fossil records from other regions of Asia except for the mid-Middle Pleistocene Homo from Hexian, Eastern China. Such patterns of geographic trait distribution cannot be simply explained by clinal geographic variation of Homo erectus between northern China and Java, and suggests survival of multiple evolutionary lineages among archaic hominins before the arrival of modern humans in the region. [Source: Chun-Hsiang Chang, Yousuke Kaifu, Masanaru Takai,Reiko T. Kono,Rainer Grün, Shuji Matsu’ura, Les Kinsley and Liang-Kong Lin, Nature Communications, January 27, 2015]

Denisovans in Tibet, 160,000 Years Ago

20120206-stome age art 2.jpg
In 1980, a Buddhist monk uncovered a mandible in Baishiya Karst Cave, more than 3,050 meters (10,000 feet) above sea level on the Tibetan Plateau. The specimen has been dated to 160,000 years ago, and analysis of proteins from its teeth indicates that it belonged to a member of the hominin species known as Denisovans.[Source: Lydia Pyne, Archaeology magazine, January-February 2020]

Denisovans are an extinct group of hominins who coexisted with the Neanderthals and modern humans around 30,000 to 50,000 years ago and originated at least 200,000 years ago. Not much is known about them other than what can be gleaned from their DNA and a few rare fossils. Scientists first learned of their existence from an incomplete finger bone and two molars discovered in the Denisova Cave in the the Altai region — where Kazakhstan, Mongolia, China and Russia all come together. The finger bone and two molars have been dated by some to 80,000 years ago, but are generally placed in the 30,000 to 50,000 year old range. Denisovans disappeared about 50,000 years ago, but their DNA can be found in the genes of modern humans across Russia, east Asia, and some Pacific islands. Up to five percent of modern Papua New Guinea residents' DNA shows remnants of interbreeding with Denisovans.

Before the discovery in Tibet, Denisovans were previously known only through fragmentary remains of several individuals, all of which were found in southern Siberia’s Denisova Cave, which is just 700 meters (2,300 feet) above sea level and almost 2,815 kilometers (1,750 miles) northwest of Baishiya Karst Cave. “This mandible reveals that Denisovans were geographically distributed much more widely and at higher altitude than we previously thought,” says archaeologist Dongju Zhang of Lanzhou University.

146,000-Year-Old Dragon Man from Northeast China — a New Species?

A closer look at a massive human skull found in a well in northeast China in the 1930s and dated to 146,000 years ago has forced scientists to rethink human evolution. The skull has a unique combination of primitive and more modern features, with the face, in particular, more closely resembling Homo sapiens. One huge molar remains. The skull appears to indicate a new branch of a family tree more closely related to modern humans than Neanderthals Chinese researchers have called the skull, found in Harbin Homo longi, or ‘Dragon man’. [Source: Ian Sample Science editor, The Guardian, June 25, 2021]

Ian Sample wrote in the The Guardian: “The discovery of a huge fossilised skull that was wrapped up and hidden in a Chinese well nearly 90 years ago has forced scientists to rewrite the story of human evolution. “The extraordinary fossil has been named a new human species, Homo longi or “Dragon man”, by Chinese researchers, although other experts are more cautious about the designation. “I think this is one of the most important finds of the past 50 years,” said Prof Chris Stringer, research leader at the Natural History Museum in London, who worked on the project. “It’s a wonderfully preserved fossil.”

“The skull, which is 23 centimeters long and more than 15 centimeters wide, is substantially larger than a modern human’s and has ample room, at 1,420 cubic centimeters, for a modern human brain. Beneath the thick brow ridge, the face has large square eye sockets, but is delicate despite its size. “This guy had a huge head,” said Stringer. The researchers believe the skull belonged to a male, about 50 years old, who would have been an impressive physical specimen. His wide, bulbous nose allowed him to breathe huge volumes of air, indicating a high-energy lifestyle, while sheer size would have helped him withstand the brutally cold winters in the region. “Homo longi is heavily built, very robust,” said Prof Xijun Ni, a paleoanthropologist at Hebei. “It is hard to estimate the height, but the massive head should match a height higher than the average of modern humans.”

“To work out where the Harbin individual fitted into human history, the scientists fed measurements from the fossil and 95 other skulls into software that compiled the most likely family tree. To their surprise, the Harbin skull and a handful of others from China formed a new branch closer to modern humans than Neanderthals. The Chinese researchers believe the Harbin skull is distinct enough to make it a new species, but Stringer is not convinced. He believes it is similar to another found in Dali county in China in 1978. “I prefer to call it Homo daliensis, but it’s not a big deal,” he said. “The important thing is the third lineage of later humans that are separate from Neanderthals and separate from Homo sapiens.” Details are published in three papers in The Innovation.

Discovery of the Dragon Man Skull,

According to the researchers, the skull was originally found in 1933 by Chinese labourers building a bridge over the Songhua River in Harbin, in China’s northernmost province, Heilongjiang, during the Japanese occupation. Zach Zorich wrote in Archaeology Magazine: A man working on a bridge discovered a skull and immediately wrapped it up and hid it from his Japanese overseers. In 2018, the elderly man revealed his secret to his grandchildren, who recovered the skull from the abandoned well where the man had concealed it 85 years earlier. They turned the skull over to scientists at the Geoscience Museum of Hebei GEO University. [Source: Zach Zorich, Archaeology Magazine, November/December 2021

An international team led by Prof Qiang Ji at the Hebei Geo University in China drew on geochemical techniques to narrow down when the skull came to rest in Harbin, dating the bones to at least 146,000 years old. The researchers determined that the skull is at least 146,000 years old by using uranium series dating, which examines trace amounts of uranium and thorium in bone. Since uranium decays to thorium at a known rate, they were able to calculate the skull’s age from the ratio of the two elements.

Modern man migrations based
on genetic evidence beginning 140,000 years ago

Is the 146,000-Year-Old Dragon Man a Denisovan?

Zach Zorich wrote in Archaeology Magazine: According to Stringer, it is also possible that the Harbin specimen may belong to the same species as the Denisovans, a lineage closely related to Neanderthals that is only known from a few small bones and a complete DNA sequence. In order to test this possibility, DNA would have to be recovered from the Harbin skull. Stringer points out that another fragmentary fossil skull, found at the site of Xuchang in central China, may represent yet another separate hominin lineage dating to about 100,000 years ago. If that it is the case, there may have been at least four different lineages of early humans in China at that time—Neanderthals, Homo sapiens, Homo longi, and the Xuchang hominin. “You’ve got all these different experiments in how to be human,” says Stringer, “and Harbin adds one more.” [Source: Zach Zorich, Archaeology Magazine, November/December 2021

“Certainly this specimen could be Denisovan but we have to be cautious. What we need is much more complete skeletal material of the Denisovans alongside DNA,” Stringer said. Prof John Hawks, a paleoanthropologist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, said the idea of a new lineage of humans was “a provocative claim”, because skulls can look similar even among distant relatives. The skull being Denisovan was a good hypothesis, he added, though he was less keen on a new species name. “I think it’s a bad moment in science to be naming new species among these large-brained humans that all interbred with each other,” he said. “What we are repeatedly finding is that the differences in looks didn’t mean much to these ancient people when it comes to breeding.” [Source: Ian Sample Science editor, The Guardian, June 25, 2021]

“Mark Maslin, a professor of earth system science at UCL and the author of The Cradle of Humanity, said: “The beautifully preserved Chinese Harbin archaic human skull adds even more evidence that human evolution was not a simple evolutionary tree but a dense intertwined bush. We now know that there were as many as 10 different species of hominins at the same time as our own species emerged. “Genetic analysis shows that these species interacted and interbred – our own genetics contain the legacy of many of these ghost species. But what is a sobering thought, is that despite all this diversity, a new version of Homo sapiens emerged from Africa about 60,000 years ago which clearly out-competed, out-bred, and even out-fought these other closely related species, causing their extinction. It is only by painstaking searching and analysis of their fossils, such as the Harbin skull, do we know of their existence.”

100,000-Year-Old Neanderthal-Like or Denisovan-Like Hominin Found in China

Skulls found in central China in the 2000s and 2010s and dated to be more than 100,000 years old appeared to be part modern human, part Neanderthal, with some suggesting they might be a new species. Ben Guarino wrote in the Washington Post: The partial skulls have features up to this time unseen in the hominid fossil record., sharing both human and Neanderthal characteristics. “It is a very exciting discovery,” as Katerina Harvati, an expert in Neanderthal evolution at the University of Tübingen in Germany, who was not involved with the research, told The Washington Post. “Especially because the human fossil record from East Asia has been not only fragmentary but also difficult to date.” [Source: Ben Guarino, Washington Post, March 3, 2017]

“Excavators dug up the skull cap fragments in 2007 and 2014, in Lingjing, located in China’s Henan province. The diggers discovered two partial skulls in a site thought to be inhabited 105,000 to 125,000 years ago, during an epoch called the Pleistocene. The owners of the skulls were good hunters, capable of fashioning stone blades from quartz. Ancient bones of horses and cattle, as well as extinct woolly rhinoceros and giant deer, were found strewn near the skull remains. [Source: Ben Guarino, Washington Post, March 3, 2017]

“Researchers from the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing and at Washington University in St. Louis described the skulls as having a “mosaic” of features. Writing Thursday in the journal Science, they noted similarities with three groups: The brow ridges of the skulls were modest and the skull bone mass was reduced, like features of early modern humans living in the Old World. The skulls had a broad and flat brainpan, like other eastern Eurasian humans from the mid-Pleistocene epoch. Their semicircular ear canals and the enlarged section at the back of the skull, however, were like a Neanderthal’s. “Eastern Asian late archaic humans have been interpreted to resemble their Neanderthal contemporaries to some degree,” Xiujie Wu, an author of the study at the Chinese Academy of Sciences‘ Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology, said in a statement. “Yet it is only with the discovery of two human crania,” she said, “that the nature of these eastern Eurasian early Late Pleistocene archaic humans is becoming clear.”

“The large brains of these archaic humans ruled out Homo erectus and other known hominid species, the scientists wrote. The researchers were vague about what they thought the species might be, describing them only as archaic humans. But Wu told Science Magazine that the fossils could represent “a kind of unknown or new archaic human that survived on in East Asia to 100,000 years ago.” Other experts speculated that these skull caps could represent a little-known human relative: the mysterious Denisovans, The cranial remains “show an intriguing combination of Neanderthal-like as well as archaic features,” Harvati said. “This would be the combination that one would expect based on the ancient DNA analysis of Denisovans, who were closely related to Neanderthals.The paper did not mention Denisovans, the study authors said, because DNA extraction attempts failed to yield genetic material. But the lack of even a nod toward the Denisovans in the new report was a point that Philipp Gunz, an evolutionary anthropologist at the Max Planck Institute in Leipzig, found surprising. The fossils, which Gunz called “remarkable,” as he told The Post, “certainly look like what many paleoanthropologists (myself included) imagine the Denisovans to look like.”

Bifaz triangular blade

Maba Man: Evidence of Foul Play and Caring Among Ancient Man?

A cracked skull found in China may be the oldest known evidence of interpersonal aggression among modern humans, Archaeology magazine reported. A CT scan of the skull, which is around 130,000 years old and known as Maba Man, revealed evidence of severe blunt force trauma, possibly from a clubbing. Remodeling of the bone around the injury, however, shows that he survived the blow and possibly was well cared for after his injury---for months or even years. [Source: Archaeology magazine, March-April 2012, Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology, Chinese Academy of Science]

Jennifer Welsh wrote in LiveScience: “The Maba Man skull pieces were found in June 1958 in a cave in Lion Rock, near the town of Maba, in Guangdong province, China. They consist of some face bones and parts of the brain case. From those fragments, researchers were able to determine that this was a pre-modern human, perhaps an archaic human. He (or she, since researchers can't tell the sex from the skull bones) would have lived about 200,000 years ago, according to researcher Erik Trinkaus, of Washington University in St. Louis. [Source: Jennifer Welsh, LiveScience, November 21, 2011, based on study published November 21, 2011 in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences ^^^]

“Decades after the skull bones were discovered, researcher Xiu-Jie Wu at the Chinese Academy of Sciences took a close look at the strange formations on the left side of the forehead, using computed tomography (CT) scans and high-resolution photography. The skull has a small depression, about half an inch long and circular in nature. On the other side of the bone from this indentation, the skull bulges inward into the brain cavity. After deciding against any other possible cause of the bump, including genetic abnormalities, diseases and infections, they were left with the idea that Maba somehow hit his head. The certainties stop there, though. The researchers suggest that all they really know is the ancient human suffered a blow to the head. ^^^

“"What becomes much more speculative is what ultimately caused it," Trinkaus said. "Did they get in an argument with someone else, and they picked something up and hit them over the head?" Based on the size of the indentation and the force needed to cause such a wound, it's possible it was another hominin, Trinkaus said. "This wound is very similar to what is observed today when someone is struck forcibly with a heavy blunt object," said study researcher Lynne Schepartz, from the school of anatomical sciences at the University of the Witwatersrand, adding that it "could possibly be the oldest example of interhuman aggression and human-induced trauma documented." Another possibility: Maba might have had a run-in with an animal. A deer antler would be about the right size to make the forehead mark, though the researchers don't know if it would be forceful enough to crack Maba's skull. ^^^

“After the whack on the head, Maba shows considerable healing, suggesting he survived the hit. It could have been months or even years later that he would have died, of some other cause. These hominins lived in groups and Maba would have been taken care of by his group mates. Though nonlethal, the injury likely would have given Maba some memory loss, the researchers said. "This individual, which was an older adult, received a very localized, hard whack on the head," Trinkaus said. "It could have caused short-term amnesia, and certainly a serious headache." ^^^

"Our conclusion is that most likely, and this is a probabilistic statement, [the injury] was caused by another person," Trinkaus told LiveScience. “People are social mammals, we do these kinds of things to each other. Ultimately all social animals have arguments and occasionally whack another and cause injury...It's another case of long-term survival of a pretty serious injury." ^^^

Image Sources: All Posters com http://www.allposters.com/?lang=1 Search Chinese Art; Longgupo jaw fossil, Wikipedia; Wikimedia Commons

Text Sources: Robert Eno, Indiana University; Asia for Educators, Columbia University afe.easia.columbia.edu; University of Washington’s Visual Sourcebook of Chinese Civilization, depts.washington.edu/chinaciv /=\; National Palace Museum, Taipei npm.gov.tw \=/ Library of Congress; New York Times; Washington Post; Los Angeles Times; China National Tourist Office (CNTO); Xinhua; China.org; China Daily; Japan News; Times of London; National Geographic; The New Yorker; Time; Newsweek; Reuters; Associated Press; Lonely Planet Guides; Compton’s Encyclopedia; Smithsonian magazine; The Guardian; Yomiuri Shimbun; AFP; Wikipedia; BBC. Many sources are cited at the end of the facts for which they are used.

Last updated April 2024

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