A 14,000-year old Maludong femur may rewrite human history, as it’s possible it belongs to a species considered long defunct, scientists have recently announced.
The discovery was made by a group of researchers led by Ji Xueping, professor at the Yunnan Institute of Cultural Relics and Archaeology and Darren Curnoe, associate professor at the University of New South Wales.
Experts have re-examined a partially preserved femur (thigh bone) which had benefited from little attention ever since its unearthing back in 1989.
Paleontologists had retrieved it from Maludong (Red Deer) Cave, and had stored in a museum located in Yunnan, a province from southwestern China.
Upon a closer inspection, researchers recently determined that the tiny bone is actually just around 14,000 years old, and is similar to that belonging to species such as Homo Habilis, which died out around 1.4 million years ago, or Homo erectus, which supposedly went extinct around 70,000 years ago.
Now, in a recent study featured on Thursday, December 17 in the journal PLOS One, Xueping and Curnoe state that this ancient relic suggests that some early humans may have roamed the Earth for much longer than previously thought, up until the Ice Age.
Before, experts had believed that at a certain point in history, our planet was actually ruled by several species of hominids, such as Homo sapiens (from which modern-day Homo sapiens sapiens emerged), the Neanderthal and Homo floresiensis (tiny-sized human ancestors that lived in Indonesia up until 17,000 years ago).
Back in 2010, German researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig analyzed a finger bone identified in the Altai mountains’ Denisova cave, and confirmed that they had found another predecessor, who inhabited the Earth around 30,000 years ago.
Even more fascinatingly, they also proved that this species actually interacted with Homo sapiens, since certain DNA inherited from these early humans was identified among the population from the Tibetan plateau.
With this new announcement regarding the Maludong femur, which probably belonged to a 110-pound, smaller sized hominid, it appears that the number of species from the genus Homo living concomitantly on Earth was actually even higher than prior estimates.
What’s even more significant is that although it had been believed that no other hominids coincided with Homo sapiens near the end of the last glacial period, Neanderthals becoming extinct around 40,000 years ago for example, it may be that certain archaic humans did remain after all.
On the other hand, scientists point out that given that just one small bone fragment has been found, it would be inadvisable to jump to conclusions or place too much emphasis on this singular discovery.
Critics such as David Begun, paleoanthropologist at the University of Toronto, have already stated the bone may be shaped slightly differently, but actually pertains to a Late Pleistocene Homo Sapiens individual, of a previously unrecorded build.
However, if contesters are actually wrong, and several species of humans did live at the same time, in the late stages of our evolution, questions abound as to how it was possible just for Homo sapiens to emerge victorious at the end of the Ice Age, around 10,000 years ago.
Researchers are now planning to conduct follow-up studies, so as to confirm their theory that multiple types of humans did indeed overlap in regions such as East Asia, as early as 14,00 years ago.
As new more pieces of the puzzle of human evolution are retrieved, it seems to become more and more difficult to re-assemble the full picture.
For instance, back in 2013 scientists unearthed ancient skeletons in South Africa, which they later determined to be of another previously unknown species of hominid, later called Homo Naledi.
Similarly, in 1997 anthropologists added Homo Antecesor to the mix, as a human species which lived in Spain around 800,000 to 1,200,000 years ago.
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