The most promising fossil ever found that could be Denisovan evidence comes from a cave in Tibet: a massive jawbone with two sturdy molars, dating back at least 160,000 years. In 2019, scientists isolated proteins from the jaw and their molecular makeup suggests they belonged to a Denisovan, rather than a modern human or Neanderthal.
This molecular evidence — combined with fossil evidence — suggests that the common ancestors of Homo sapiens, Neanderthals, and Denisovians lived 600,000 years ago.
Our lineage separated from itself, then 400,000 years ago the Neanderthals and Denisovans diverged. In other words, Neanderthals and Denisovans were our closest extinct relatives. They even crossed paths with the ancestors of modern humans, and today we carry pieces of their DNA.
But many puzzles still remain at this stage of human history, especially in East Asia. Over the past few decades, paleoanthropologists have found a number of fossils, many of which are incomplete or damaged, which exhibit features that make them resemble our own species and other features that suggest they belong elsewhere in the world. hominid family tree.
Katerina Harvati, a paleoanthropologist at the University of Tübingen in Germany who was not involved in the new study, said the dragon man’s skull could “help clarify some of the confusion.”
To understand how Homo longi fits into the human family tree, scientists compared his anatomy to 54 hominid fossils. Researchers have found that it belongs to a line that includes the jawbone in Tibet which has been identified as being from Denisovan.
The skull looked even more like part of a skull discovered in 1978 in China’s Dali County, dating back 200,000 years. Some researchers believed that the Dali fossil belonged to our own species, while others believed it belonged to an older lineage. Still others even called the fossil a new species, Homo daliensis.