14,000-Year-Old Bone Found in Red Deer Cave Points to Archaic Human Species

Analysis of a 14,000 year-old partial human femur found in 1989 from the Maludong (Red Deer) Cave in the Yunnan, Southwest China states that the femur looks like that of early Homo erectus and H. habilis… Way more archaic in morphology than the dating implies. The full paper has been published in PLoS One.

Human evolution timeline showing where the Maludong femur probably fits. Image credit: Darren Curnoe / Ji Xueping.

In 2012 the team published their analysis of the skull bones from the site. They speculated the bones could represent an unknown new species, or perhaps a very early and primitive-looking population of modern humans, which had migrated to the region more than 100,000 years ago.

The thigh bone is more primitive than the skulls seem. The shaft is narrow and long with a thin cortex that is buttressed. This discovery is controversial because, until now, it had been thought that the youngest pre-modern humans on mainland Eurasia (Neanderthals and Denisovans) died out 40,000 years ago, soon after anatomically modern Homo sapiens entered the region. But… This find hints at the possibility a pre-modern species may have overlapped in time with modern humans on mainland East Asia.

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