Two 100,000-year-old skulls unearthed in China are up-ending ideas about human evolution. They appear to be hybrids of humans, neanderthals — and a third mysterious race. the so-called ‘mosaic’ skulls link to mysterious Denisovan humans who went extinct in the last ice age…
he partial skulls, unearthed at the Lingjing excavation site in Xuchang, central China, offer new evidence of the behaviour and distribution of pre and early human populations in Eurasia. The new hominid skulls suggest a ‘hybrid’ human, mixed from humans, neandertals and a third unknown bloodline. And it’s largely unexpected.
They display the large brain capacity, lightly-built cranial vaults and modest bone rides on the brow, similar to early modern humans. Moreover, they display a low and board braincase which rounds on to the inferior skull (underside of the skull), as with Middle Pleistocene early Eurasian humans. Finally, they have semicircular structures in the inner-ears and an arrangement of the rear skull similar to that of Eurasian Neandertals.
Put together, these three separate and distinct traits suggest an intermixing of existing human ancestors.
“I don’t like to think of these fossils as those of hybrids. Hybridisation implies that all of these groups were separate and discrete, only occasionally interacting. What these fossils show is that these groups were basically not separate. The idea that there were separate lineages in different parts of the world is increasingly contradicted by the evidence we are unearthing.”
But are these two new skulls our first good look at a Denisovan?
Whatever their origin, the new skulls paint a much more confused picture than the traditionally accepted one of separate populations living largely independent of each other. It all adds up to a growing rethink of the whole ‘out of Africa’ theory.