Analysis of a skull found in north-eastern China in the 1930s has raised questions about the very nature of human evolution. The skull, which has been nicknamed “Dragon Man”, was originally found during the construction of a bridge in 1933, however, it was rediscovered in 2018 after being hidden in a well near the construction site. Paleoanthropologists from Heibi GEO University in China have used Uranium-Thorium dating techniques to reveal the skull’s age- estimated to be at least 146,000 years old.
The skull in question has a thick brow ridge, receding forehead, and large flat cheekbones, and is much larger than modern human skulls. Scientists have inferred it had belonged to a male below the age of 50 who was powerfully built with dark skin and hair. There is some debate in the scientific community surrounding the species of the remains and how they relate to modern-day humans. Professor Chris Stringer, from London’s Natural History Museum, suggests the skull could represent a sister species to Homo Sapiens. It’s widely believed Neanderthals are the closest sister species to our very own Homo Sapiens, but scientists say the “Dragon Man” skull may provide evidence of an even closer relative.
Investigating a tooth found in the skull, scientists discovered it was attached by three roots, a rare trait in modern humans. The combination of features may point to the Dragon Man belonging to a new species, named Homo longi due to its discovery near the Long Jiang River. Additionally, Long Jiang translates to Dragon River in English, hence the naming of the skull as the “Dragon Man”.
This, however, is just one theory of the Dragon Man belonging to the novel species. Others
believe it belongs to an archaic human group known as the Denisovans. This explanation by scientists at the University of Cambridge points to similarities between the skull and a jawbone belonging to a Denisovan. Evidence of Denisovans primarily relies on genetic clues, showing them to be a common ancestor of both Neanderthals and H. sapiens around 765,000 years ago. Scientists are still looking for more evidence around the site of the skull’s original discovery with the hope it can shed more light on which theory is more accurate. Whilst there is still debate surrounding the skull, evidence of other remains could provide scientists with the clues to solve the mystery of the “Dragon Man”.