Scientists have just found the closest relative of humanity: a newly discovered human species called Homo longi or “Dragon Man”. The near-perfect fossil skull was reportedly discovered in the 1930s during the construction of a bridge in the town of Harbin in northeastern China’s Heilongjiang Province. A new look at these ruins reveals that it is actually an unknown species. More remarkably, archaeological hominin seem to be present among our closest hominin relatives, even more closely related to us than Neanderthals.
The incredible discovery was made by multiple scientific institutes in China, as well as the Natural History Museum in London. Their findings are reported in three research papers (here, here and here) published in the cell press journal The Innovation this week. Homo was plentiful in length, with square eye sockets, thick brows roots, wide mouths, large teeth, and the size of a modern human brain. Named the “Dragon Man” in Heilongjiang, it was discovered on the Black Dragon River in the province. Researchers believe that this particular person was a 50-year-old man, living in a forested environment as part of a small community.
However, the dating of this fossil was particularly difficult because it lost information on the exact site of its discovery, meaning that researchers could not date only the level of fossils that were found. Instead the researchers used a combination of sophisticated geochemical analysis with rare earth elements, strontium isotopic ratios and X-ray fluorescence and direct uranium, to better understand when this archeological human revolves around the earth. Their works show that fossils lived at least 146,000 years ago. It was a very interesting time when it came to human evolution. Several species of Homo sapiens were found in Asia, Europe, and Africa, including Homo sapiens, Neanderthals, Denisovans, and others. It was particularly busy in East Asia where several archeological human species merged.
This family tree is not straight and is comparable to the family Bramble shrub: abundant, chaotic and full of gaps. Unpacking relationships between these species can be profoundly complex, but Homo sapiens and Neanderthals are often thought to be closely related to “sibling species.” Some believe that Neanderthals represent the same species and another subspecies as we do. While this remains true, researchers believe that Hondo Longi is more closely associated with us than Neanderthals.