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The Past

Homo longi, the dragon man: Researchers identify our closest relative

In 1933, the skull of a 50-year-old male of the Homo longi species was found in China, puzzling researchers.

(CREDIT Chuang Zhao)

In 1933 a mysterious fossil skull was discovered near Harbin City in the Heilongjiang province of north-eastern China.

Despite being nearly perfectly preserved – with square eye sockets, thick brow ridges and large teeth – nobody could work out exactly what it was. The skull is much bigger than that of Homo sapiens and other human species – and its brain size is similar to that of our own species. Historical events left it without a secure place of origin or date, until today.

Now a team of Chinese, Australian and British researchers has finally solved the puzzle – the skull represents a previously unknown extinct human species. The research, published as three studies in the journal Innovation, suggests this is our closest relative in the human family tree.

Dubbed Homo longi, which can be translated as “dragon river”, it is named after the province in which it was found. The identification of the skull, thought to have come from a 50-year-old male, was partly based on chemical analysis of sediments trapped inside it.

Anthony Sinclair, Professor of Archaeological Theory and Method, University of Liverpool

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.


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