The fossils of four Stone Age hominids recently discovered in two caves in China are possibly an entirely new species of humanoids.
The skulls and teeth possess a mysterious mixture of both ancient and modern features as well as previously unseen characteristics.
Their unusual cast of features include a flat face, a broad nose, a jutting jaw, minus a chin, large molars, a rounded cranium with prominent brow ridges, and dense skull bones.
These fossils represent the youngest skulls ever found in Asia, dating back from between 14,500 and 11,500 years ago.
Until these fossils were found, with the exception of Homo sapiens, no other skeletons younger than 100,000 years old had been unearthed in mainland East Asia.
Curiously, carbon dating revealed that these humanoids roamed the earth at a time when it was believed that other human species, such as Neanderthals, had already died out.
They have been dubbed the “Red Deer People” after the extinct animals that comprised the mainstay of their diet.
“These new fossils might be of a previously unknown species, one that survived until the very end of the Ice Age, around 11,000 years ago,” said Professor Curnoe of the University of New South Wales. “Alternatively, they might represent a very early and previously unknown migration of modern humans out of Africa, a population who may not have contributed genetically to living people.”
The discovery of these fossils, which was published in the journal PLoS One, opens a door of knowledge concerning the primitive populations of Asia, as it was originally thought that early humans were an isolated lot, living without competition for food and space on the continent.
The Red Deer fossils may represent a number of things still to be verified by researchers and scientists. It is possible they are part of an early migration of modern humans from Africa into East Asia. It has also been speculated that there may be nothing extraordinary about them at all, and that they are simply indicative of the reality that people come in all shapes and sizes and always have.
The latest find at the very least reveals a lack of knowledge about this place and time.
Time will tell. Maybe.