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Missing Links in Human Evolution – China May Hold a Key to Understanding

"Such an important discovery raises many new and interesting questions."

In a not-so-recent discovery, remains of ancient peoples were excavated from the caves that served as their former dwellings in southwestern China.  The fossils in question were first discovered in 1979 and 1989, though had been placed in storage until just recently.  Professor Ji Xueping discovered the remains of the 1979 group sitting in a basement and, upon taking a further look, noticed that the traits of these fossils were truly unique in the chain of human evolution.

Though the remains came from two separate caves and encompass five distinct individuals, they all share the same unique traits and are therefore almost certainly the same species.  What species that happens to be, no one seems to know.  Many of the characteristics of the so-called Red Deer Cave people are equivalent to humans, both modern and primitive, though several other traits are definitely not Homo sapien.

The remains date from approximately 11,500 to 14,500 years ago, near the end of the Ice Age.  Evidence from nearby sites show that the Red Deer Cave people coexisted side-by-side with human ancestors.  Other artifacts show that they made tools and had knowledge of the use of fire as well.

Such an important discovery raises many new and interesting questions.  Anthropologists are trying to figure out if what they have found are the remains of a separate branch of evolution or whether they somehow fit into the evolution of Homo sapiens at a previously unknown point.  The lack of their unique characteristics among human populations today shows that, at the very least, they did not interbreed enough to pass their traits on.

Currently, scientists are working on extracting and testing DNA from the remains so that they can more accurately determine how this species relates to other intelligent primates.  Until the results of those tests are available, they can only guess at what exciting evolutionary discovery they have stumbled upon.