Chinese scientists have discovered an ancient skull that may have belonged to an entirely new human species called Homo longi, or “dragon man”. The research results were published in three articles in The Innovation magazine.
The skull was originally found in the 1930s by Chinese workers building a bridge over the Songhua River in Harbin. To prevent the skull from falling into the hands of the Japanese invaders, it was wrapped and hidden in an abandoned well.
For almost 90 years, he remained there, until in 2018 the man who found him told his grandson about the find. The fossil was then donated to the Geosciences Museum of Hebei University.
The researchers estimate that the skull belonged to a man who was about 50 years old when he died, between 146,000 and 296,000 years ago. He had a massive head, a wide, bulging nose, and large eyes.
The height of the “dragon man” could be higher than the average of modern people, and the physique – very strong.
“It’s a really amazing discovery. It is one of the most complete crania I have ever seen,” says Xijun Ni at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, who was part of the team that studied the fossil. It is also the largest known Homo skull ever found.
The study found that this group lived in East Asia at least 146,000 years ago. Moreover, scientists have stated that this branch of the human family tree is more closely related to Homo sapiens than Neanderthals.
At the same time, some experts believe that this skull probably belonged to a Denisovan.
“It’s got such an interesting combination of features,” says Stringer. “The morphology shows that this is definitely a distinct lineage in eastern Asia. It’s not Neanderthal and it’s not Homo sapiens, it’s something quite distinctive,” says Stringer.