Published: 28th June 2021
What The FAQ: Who is the 'Dragon Man'? Here's all you need to know about the new species of humans
In today's What The FAQ, we talk about the Dragon Man, its back story, and all you need to know about the new species discovered by Chinese researchers
Chinese researchers have claimed an ancient human skull, discovered in 1993, could belong to a completely new species of humans. The researchers have published their findings in the journal — The Innovation — in which they note that the cranium (the portion that encloses the brain) could be over 1,46,000 years old. Here's all you need to know about this new species and its back story.
How old is the human skull?
Scientists have said that the, more than 1,40,000-year-old, skull found in northeastern China belongs to new ancient species of humans called Homo longi and have nicknamed it “Dragon Man”. They estimate that the skull belonged to a man, who was about 50 years old when he died, between 1,46,000 and 2,96,000 years ago. The skull was reportedly discovered back in 1933 when a bridge was built over the Songhua River. For thousands of years, the skull remained buried in sediments.
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What is the Dragon Man's back story?
The human skull remained wrapped up and hidden in an abandoned well for 85 years. In 1933, a labourer working at a bridge construction site in the city of Harbin in China’s northernmost province of Heilongjiang came across the peculiar skull, according to one of the studies in The Innovation. It’s likely that the man, whose name has been withheld by his family, recognised that he had found a scientifically important specimen. Researchers had found another humanlike skull, nicknamed Peking Man, near Beijing just four years ago. The labourer chose to hide it rather than hand it over to the Japanese authorities who occupied northeast China at the time and he did not mention the skull to anyone for decades. The authors of the new papers, in an account of the fossil’s discovery, speculated that he was ashamed of having worked for the Japanese, according to the New York Times. "Instead of passing the cranium to his Japanese boss, he buried it in an abandoned well, a traditional Chinese method of concealing treasures," according to the study.
Where did the Dragon Man live?
The “Dragon Man” probably lived in a forested floodplain area as part of a small community. Researchers believe that he may have been well adapted for harsh environments and would have been able to disperse throughout Asia based on the location where the skull was found as well as the large-sized man it points to. "This population would have been hunter-gatherers, living off the land. From the winter temperatures in Harbin today, it looks like they were coping with even harsher cold than the Neanderthals,” co-author Chris Stringer of the Natural History Museum, London told AFP. "From the winter temperatures in Harbin today, it looks like they were coping with even harsher cold than the Neanderthals,” Stringer added.