A cranium discovered at the base of a well on a river in northeast China for over 80 years might belong to a previously unknown species of hominid that modern scientists call “Dragon man.” The find is the first addition to the human species’ family tree and represents an anatomically diverse group of archaic humanoids that lived along the coastal margins of Asia and New Zealand. Across the world, paleoartists are putting a new twist on an old motif-the origin of humanity. New fossils and molecular analyses suggest these archaic beings may also have been browsed by sharks. If so, this discovery pushes back the time of human evolution by several tens of thousands of years.
Dr. Mike Wellman of the Natural History Museum in London, UK, and his colleagues announced the discovery in June at the meeting of the American Association for the Study of Cancer. They dated the cranium to about two hundred thousand years ago, and based on its shape and structure, they tentatively concluded it belonged to a species called H. erectus. The discovery was reported in the journal Nature and Scientific Research online, and Wellman is hoping for a firm conclusion by next summer. The scientific research leader, Dr. Robert Sayyard of France’s University Hospital in Caen, thinks there is enough evidence to justify calling the cranium a member of the species H. erectus. Other experts, however, are less confident in declaring it so.