Back in January 2016 I posted about one of my favorite ancient human ancestors known as the Red Deer Cave People(aka “Enigma Man”) (see link below). These people lived in China up until about 70 kya and their fossil remains were discovered in 2012 in SW China. Then in December of 2015 it was announced that yet another bone of these people had been found which was described as being “highly unusual.” I’ll return to this a bit later……….
The Red Deer Cave People are somewhat of a mystery. They are believed to have been a pre-modern (pre-Homo sapiens) people and analysis shows they have some remarkable similarities in morphology to archaic H. sapiens DESPITE that they lived between 14-11 kya.
Returning to the “highly unusual” bones of these people what researchers find odd is that the anatomy of these ancient hominids is unlike what we’ve found before in modern humans! Many theories have been tossed around about their origins. One such theory is that they may have been the last surviving archaic people in China that somehow were isolated. Another theory is that they may have been very early modern humans who became isolated. Others have theorized that the Red Deer Cave people were hybrids, a mix of early modern humans and some other hominid. Most of the theories are based on what researchers consider to be the “highly unusual” features of these people. I, as you likely suspect, have my own theory about these people 🙂
The Red Deer Cave People have some rather archaic features. A thigh bone from these people is thought to resemble that of Homo erectus or Homo habilis. The body mass of the RDCP was about 50 kilograms (110 lbs) and this means that these people were actually smaller than the average pre-modern and Ice Age human hunter-gatherers.
So overall the features of the RDCP are more primitive even though they are of a recent age and they had features that differ from modern humans. These features include the following:
Face: the face of the RDCP is flat and short with high and protruding cheek bones and prominent brows.
Nose: the nose of the RDCP is broad like that seen in the Neanderthals.
Jaw: the jaw is protruding with no modern chin
Molars: the molars are large.
Skull: the skull is thick boned
Brain: the brain size is deemed moderate; the brain is believed to have had modern looking frontal lobes.
In terms of diet it is thought these people used fire and cooked large amounts of venison including the now extinct giant red deer. Hence their name.
The RDCP are the youngest population to have been found who do not look like modern humans. The discoverer of the RDCP are reluctant to classify them as a separate hominid species and Chris Stringer of London’s Natural History Museum has suggested they may be hybrids resulting from interbreeding between modern humans and the mysterious Denisovans. Other researchers are skeptical including myself! Some of these skeptics believe the features we see in these people are within the range of normal variation limits for H. sapiens.
In the most recent studies done on the RDCP a long femur bone seems to indicate a close relationship to ancient humans such as H. erectus or H. habilis. It is no understatement to say that the RDCP have a mixture of archaic and modern features. The thick skull bones is a very archaic feature as are their prominent brow ridges and large molar teeth. The flat, short face, however, is a modern feature characteristic of modern humans. The RDCP could well be a hybrid between modern humans and H. erectus or H. habilis. Hybrids resulting from interbreeding between modern humans and archaic species. That is ONE possibility but there is another…………
When I compare the recreations of the skull of the RDCP with that of Australoids I find several similarities. I also see similarities in body size and even some in the chins. So I wonder were the Red Deer Cave People Australoids? Frankly, to me they look more Australoid than they do H. erectus or H. habilis. And when I compare the noses of the RDCP to Australoids they look virtually the same! As for the brows, they too are similar with perhaps the brow of the Australoid being slightly smaller but of little difference.
So what were the Red Deer Cave People? Hybrids resulting from interbreeding between modern humans and H. erectus or H. habilis? Or archaic Australoids in China?
One last observation…..IF the RDCP are hybrids between modern humans and H. habilis then that is unusual too as H. habilis is believed to have remained in Africa. So if this is the case then that means H. habilis was also in China far, far away from Africa!!
Further research on the RDCP will prove to be interesting and I’ll be keeping any eye on any further research.
Peron’s Post on the Red Deer Cave People: https://rperon1017blog.wordpress.com/2016/01/07/red-deer-cave-people-a-mystery-species/
Brisbane Times article on RDCP: http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/world/science/lost-for-11500-years–another-part-of-the-family-20120314-1v3r7.html