Archaeologists have discovered the bones of a strange hominid creature in China, that may date from 11,000-14,000 years ago:
The fact that this group apparently cooked meat and had thus mastered fire argues strongly that it is some branch of the genus homo and thus, as the article avers, we could be looking at some hitherto unknown branch of the human family. A glance at the picture in the article explains why (and, again, assuming here that we're not looking at a scientific forgery the likes of Piltdown man): the jaw and cheek structure of the skull are clearly not those of modern man, but the teeth appear to be remarkably similar to modern homo sapiens sapiens:
"For instance, the Red Deer Cave people had long, broad and tall frontal lobes like modern humans. These brain lobes are located immediately behind the forehead, and are linked with personality and behavior.
"However, the Red Deer Cave people differ from modern Homo sapiens in their prominent brow ridges, thick skull bones, flat upper faces with a broad nose, jutting jaws that lack a humanlike chin, brains moderate in size by ice age human standards, large molar teeth, and primitively short parietal lobes — brain lobes at the top of the head associated with sensory data. "These are primitive features seen in our ancestors hundreds of thousands of years ago,' Curnoe said."
In short, we're looking at something very new in the evolutionary record, and perhaps and yet, something not all that new. It is intriguing that the dating of these bones - 11-14 thousand years ago, fits roughly the same time frame that most alternative researchers fix for the Deluge. The finds are a mystery because as the article itself observes, until the discovery of the Red Deer People fossils, no fossils of anything other than modern humans were ever discovered in eastern Asia.
We may, in fact, be looking at one of the "missing links" or "transitional" species," according to the article:
"'I think the evidence is slightly weighted towards the Red Deer Cave people representing a new evolutionary line,' Curnoe said. 'First, their skulls are anatomically unique — they look very different to all modern humans, whether alive today or in Africa 150,000 years ago. And second, the very fact they persisted until almost 11,000 years ago when we know that very modern-looking people lived at the same time immediately to the east and south suggests they must have been isolated from them. We might infer from this isolation that they either didn't interbreed or did so in a limited way.'"
But before one leaps to this conclusion, there is a problem: the remains of four skulls does not a species make, nor do they make very clear - as the article itself points out - if they inter-bred with others in the area, including more anatomically modern humans, nor, without DNA evidence, could one even hazard a guess as to whether or not they could interbreed with modern humans.
Whatever else we might think of these remains however, my bet is that we have found either some ancestor, or perhaps some genetic "cousin" of the human race, with yet another chapter to tell in the human story.
See you on the flip side.