A recent bone discovery suggests there may be another species of humans that lived alongside us not very long ago in the grand scheme of things. Just 14,000 years in fact. What some may find even stranger is there is a possibility we ate those people.
An ancient femur found in a Chinese cave is unlike any bone formerly discovered, suggesting it belonged to a previously unknown human species that lived alongside modern man just 14,000 years ago.
The distinctive shape of the bone indicates that the species would have walked differently from humans today, according to the New Scientist. And based on the size of the bone, the scientists behind the analysis report in their paper, published in PLOS One in December 2015, that an adult would have weighed 50kg, which is far smaller than other humans who lived at the time.
“When you put all the evidence together the femur comes out quite clearly resembling the early members of Homo,” Darren Curnoe, from the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia, who led the research team, told the New Scientist.
But while the earliest homo species lived around 2 million years ago and more recent humans, such as Neanderthals, became extinct some 40,000 years ago, researchers believe the newly discovered species would have lived far more recently, and alongside modern humans.
The 14,000-year-old bone fragment, which was found in the Muladong Cave in southwestern China in 1989 but was not studied for 25 years, has been painted with red clay, which is indicative of burial rituals. It seems to have been broken in a way that allows access to the bone marrow, and shows evidence of being butchered and being burned in a fire alongside other meat, according to the New Scientist.
Curnoe believes that homo sapiens mated with this newfound species, and possibly also ate them and used their bones as tools.
The theory is supported by bones discovered in Longlin cave in Guangxi Province in 1979, which Curnoe examined in 2012. These fossils were dated to 11,500 years ago and are thought to show a combination of homo sapiens traits and those of an archaic human.
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