Chinese Fossils May Be Early Ancestors of Humans

Australian researchers have found a species reminiscent of humans that may have lived as recently as 11,500 years ago in eastern Asia.

The fossil skulls have an “unusual mixture of modern human traits … and some unusual features” that are more likely to have come from human ancestors, researchers say.

The fossils, discovered originally in 1989 near the southwestern Chinese city of Mengzi, have only been recently analyzed.

“These new fossils might be of a previously unknown species, one that survived until the very end of the Ice Age, around 11,000 years ago,” Darren Curnoe, one of the authors of the report, published in the journal PLoS One, said in a statement.

According to the paper the skulls have a mix of modern human features and archaic ones that were common on human ancestors. This potentially “late surviving archaic population” likely shared the land with some of China’s earliest people.

“Alternatively, they might represent a very early and previously unknown migration of modern humans out of Africa,” Curnoe said. If that’s the case, there are likely few if any modern relatives of the people, because of DNA variances found in the specimens.

They “may not have contributed genetically to living people,” he added.

The specimens have a flatter, wider face than other fossils found of early humans, and vary from fossils found of other archaic species.

No archaic species fossils younger than 100,000 years old have been found in eastern Asia, leading researchers to believe that no archaic species lived there before modern humans migrated to the continent from Africa. The discovery puts that hypothesis into question, as early human relatives could have possibly lived there much more recently.

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