A new human?
Ancient people (and other primates) have called China home for a long time. First there was "Peking man" (H. erectus). Then there was the great ape Gigantopithecus. Now we have the Red Deer Cave people. Who were they? Well, we're a long way from being sure. Their skulls show an odd mix of "archaic" and modern features. As a press release from the Australian-Chinese team investigating four sets of human remains puts, it, ""Dated to just 14,500 to 11,500 years old, these people would have shared the landscape with modern-looking people at a time when China's earliest farming cultures were beginning." They could be a new species, an unknown early offshoot of H. sapiens from the days when we first moved out of Africa, or, one cautious scientist says, just an example of how H. sapiens populations vary. The first fossils were found in 1979, but it's taken until now for them to be properly examined, which makes one wonder what the heck else is still lying in a museum somewhere, waiting to turn our current theory of human development on its ear.
The scientific paper describing all this is titled, "Human Remains from the Pleistocene-Holocene Transition of Southwest China Suggest a Complex Evolutionary History for East Asians." Read it here.