'Red Deer Cave People' May Be New Human Species

Stone Age remains found in China puzzle researchers

By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff

Posted Mar 15, 2012 4:56 AM CDT

(Newser) – Bones found in southern China may be evidence of a previously unknown human species, researchers say. The "Red Deer Cave People" survived until some 11,000 years ago, but don't appear to have interbred with neighboring peoples, the BBC reports. Their remains have a puzzling mix of ancient and modern anatomical features, and researchers say it will take much more analysis before their proper place in the line of human evolution can be confirmed. "They could be a new evolutionary line, or a previously unknown modern human population that arrived early from Africa, and failed to contribute genetically to living east Asians," the lead researcher tells the Guardian.

"While finely balanced, I think the evidence is slightly weighted toward the Red Deer Cave people representing a new evolutionary line," he says. "Their skulls are anatomically unique. They look very different from all modern humans, whether alive today or in Africa 150,000 years ago." They were named after the cave where the first bones were found. Fossils show that they were fond of eating a now-extinct species of red deer, which they cooked in caves. "They clearly had a taste for venison," the lead researcher says.

An artist's impression of how the Red Deer Cave People may have looked.
An artist's impression of how the Red Deer Cave People may have looked.   (P. Schouten/Public Library of Science)
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