The chance discovery of two nearly-intact crania, or skull caps, has given us a window on how Homo sapiens evolved in Asia over 100,000 years ago.
Dubbed Xuchang 1 and 2, the crania are between 105,000 and 125,000 years old and have distinct shapes unlike anything seen before in the fossil record.
Describing the new findings in Science, paleoanthropologist Xiu-Jie Wu and her colleagues say they’ve found an ancient human where the features are distinctly Neanderthal mixed with those of a modern human.
Zhan-Yang Li, Wu’s colleague at the Institute for Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology (IVPP) in Beijing, found miraculously undamaged fragments of the two crania in Lingjing, a village in Henan, China.
A spring flowed there during the Pleistocene period when these humans would have lived, and the area was full of now-extinct megafauna like Bos (aurochs, or wild cows), Megaloceros (a massive deer), and Coelodonta (a rhino), as well as elk and horses.
Bones from these animals were found with Xuchang 1 and 2, along with stone tools made from quartz.
It appears that Xuchang 1 and 2 were successful hunters with a rich array of foods to eat.
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