• Fri. Mar 31st, 2023

Million-Year-Old Human Skull Found in China Reveals Evolutionary Secrets


Sep 30, 2022

Archaeologists in China have uncovered a human cranium that’s virtually unimaginably outdated. Whereas performing excavations within the central province of Hubei, a group of researchers affiliated with the Hubei Provincial Institute of Cultural Relics and Archaeology discovered an entire cranium they recognized as belonging to an archaic human who lived roughly a million years in the past, through the Center Pleistocene Epoch.

Whereas fossilized bones from historical hominins have been discovered many occasions earlier than, that is essentially the most full archaic human cranium that has been found courting again that far in time.

The Hubei Daily experiences that the fossilized cranium was excavated on the Xuetang Liangzi website within the metropolis of Shiyan. The cranium, which has been dubbed the “Yunxian Man,” was recognized has having belonged to an archaic hominin often known as Homo erectus , which first appeared on the earth about two million years in the past.

Xuetang Liangzi Ruins ( Courtesy of Hubei Provincial Institute of Cultural Relics and Archaeology )

The invention of the cranium isn’t precisely stunning, since two Homo erectus skulls had been unearthed from the identical website in 1989 and 1990. Nevertheless, these skulls had been badly deformed by pressures related to fossilization processes, and therefore they weren’t appropriate for in-depth research.

All three skulls had been excavated from a layer that produced a wide range of stone tools and animal fossils.

“The No. 3 cranium is much like the primary two by way of burial setting, faunal stays and technical traits of stone merchandise, so the three skulls ought to belong to the identical age,” Lu Chengqiu, the pinnacle of the Institute of Cultural Relics and Archaeology excavation group, defined within the Hubei Each day article. He famous that remaining affirmation of the cranium’s age would come from radiocarbon dating , which is able to happen quickly.

"Yunxian Man" No. 3 Skull Fossil, remaining semi-unearthed. (Courtesy of the National Cultural Heritage Administration)

“Yunxian Man” No. 3 Cranium Fossil, remaining semi-unearthed. ( Courtesy of the National Cultural Heritage Administration )

An Extremely Vital and Uncommon Discovery

The archaeologists who found the traditional skull are continuing fastidiously, to ensure they don’t injury this extremely uncommon and useful fossil. To date, they’ve dug down far sufficient to uncover the higher half of the pinnacle, and the excavation is anticipated to proceed at a secure tempo till the cranium could be faraway from the bottom (that is anticipated to occur in November).

As a result of the cranium is full and well-preserved, the scientists are hopeful they will be taught extra in regards to the evolutionary historical past of Homo erectus in East Asia. As soon as the intact cranium has been extracted a complete assortment of anatomical options might be out there for additional research and evaluation. The cranium may even present wonderful knowledge on Homo erectus mind quantity, and on regional variations between totally different variations of the species (by means of comparisons with Homo erectus fossils discovered elsewhere on this planet).

Any such data is extraordinarily helpful for evolutionary scientists, who should attempt to reconstruct evolutionary timelines and histories from a severely restricted variety of high-quality samples.

“There are only a few human fossils round a million years outdated,” onsite excavation chief Gao Xing confirmed, throughout a press conference given by China’s Nationwide Cultural Heritage Administration to announce this discovery.

“In China and East Asia, the one ones over a million years outdated are Yuanmou Man, which dates again to 1.7 million years in the past, and Lantian Man, which is round 1.6 million to 1.2 million years outdated.”

What scientists can uncover about this long-extinct species has clear relevance to the research of the evolution of recent people. Homo erectus is the forerunner of Homo antecessor , the final frequent ancestor of each fashionable people and Neanderthals. This implies Homo erectus is simply two steps faraway from Homo sapiens (us) and options many traits that make it simply recognizable as one in all our long-lost cousins.

Representation of Homo erectus, who appeared very similar to Homo sapiens. (crimson / Adobe Stock)

Illustration of Homo erectus, who appeared similar to Homo sapiens. ( crimson / Adobe Inventory)

In keeping with Gao, who’s a researcher with the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology on the Chinese language Academy of Sciences, new radiocarbon courting outcomes have proven that the well-known Peking Man lived about 800,000 years in the past. The Yunxian Man would have lived at the very least 200,000 years sooner than this, however tons of of hundreds of years after Yuanmou Man and Lantian Man had been thriving in East Asia. Which means Yunxian Man occupies an intermediate place on the Homo erectus evolutionary tree within the area, which suggests it ought to possess some traits much like its predecessors and a few much like its ancestors.

The Astounding Connection between Historical past and Prehistory

Even though Yunxian Man and his group existed so way back, the Chinese language archaeologists have been in a position to decide sure information about their life-style. Based mostly on the artifacts and animal bones uncovered at Xuetang Liangzi, it appears this model of Homo erectus was expert at making instruments and was fairly profitable at looking giant mammals.

“In the identical layer because the cranium, a lot of mammal fossils have been unearthed, most of that are rhinos, elephants, horses and deer,” Gao mentioned.

Whereas many of the species discovered had been herbivores, the archaeologists have additionally unearthed some bones that got here from historical carnivores, together with totally different species of massive cats associated to modern-day tigers and leopards.

It’s exceptional to find that prehistoric hunter-gatherer cultures could possibly be discovered on the planet a million years in the past. This reveals that the connection between historical and fashionable people is each genetic and cultural, as hunter-gatherer teams from historic occasions had been truly following the instance of people that lived hundreds of generations earlier than them.

Prime picture: The fossil of a Homo erectus cranium present in current nationwide civilization origin-tracing program. Supply: Courtesy of the National Cultural Heritage Administration

By Nathan Falde

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