A groundbreaking discovery has been made by a team of paleontologists from the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Xi'an Jiaotong University, the University of York, the University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, and the National Research Center on Human Evolution. Their study, published in the Journal of Human Evolution, unveils evidence of a previously unknown human lineage dating back 300,000 years.
The fossils, including a jawbone, partial skull, and leg bones, were found at the Hualongdong site in East China. Analyzing the unique features of the jawbone, such as a triangular lower edge and a distinct bend, the researchers noticed resemblances to both modern humans and Late Pleistocene hominids. Interestingly, the absence of a chin suggests a closer relation to older species, while other characteristics point towards Homo erectus.
The skull, previously identified as the first-ever Middle Pleistocene human skull in southeastern China, revealed more similarities to modern humans than the jawbone. After ruling out Denisovan, the team proposed that the fossils represent a third lineage, one closer to Homo sapiens but distinct from Denisovan or Homo erectus. This suggests shared evolutionary relationships with hominins of the Middle or Late Pleistocene, indicating that traits found in modern humans may have emerged as early as 300,000 years ago.