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China Science

Possible New Human Species Discovered In China 234

Posted by samzenpus
from the family-tree-gets-another-branch dept.
BayaWeaver writes "These are exciting times in anthropology. Recent analysis of fossils first discovered in China in 1979 indicate that a human-like species may have co-existed with modern humans as late as 11,500 years ago. This presumably new species has been nicknamed Red Deer Cave people because of their apparent taste for the extinct giant red deer. Other species recently discovered include: the 'hobbits' on the Indonesian island of Flores which are also thought to have been around until 12,000 years ago and the Denisovans discovered in 2010 that co-existed with modern humans in Siberia about 30,000 years ago."
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Possible New Human Species Discovered In China

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  • Fascinating! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by SultanCemil (722533) on Wednesday March 14, 2012 @05:39PM (#39358593)
    I, for one, think this is absolutely fascinating! The thought that, as recently as 10k years ago, there were other species of human is amazing - that's not far off of written history!

    I wonder if we could think about cloning these people - is the DNA "fresh" enough?
    • by cpu6502 (1960974)

      Why does written history only go back 10,000 years? Our ice age ancestors were smart enough to write - did the literature get lost over time? (Like greek and roman music was lost.)

       

      • Re:Fascinating! (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Spy Handler (822350) on Wednesday March 14, 2012 @05:52PM (#39358709) Homepage Journal

        written history only goes back to about 5000 years, I think ancient Sumerians (Iraqis) writing cuneiform on clay tablets.

        To paraphrase a nerd, if the cro-magnons who left cave paintings 30,000 years ago in France could've written something, they would've written something.

        • Re:Fascinating! (Score:5, Insightful)

          by tmosley (996283) on Wednesday March 14, 2012 @06:25PM (#39358981)
          30000 years from now, no paper or electronic writing produced by the current generation will exist. Just what little we have carved into stone.

          Hard to say what a people were capable of when we know so very, very little about them.
          • I wonder what the practice in most modern civilizations of burying the dead in caskets will mean for archeologists or alien explorers even 1000 years from now. A quick google suggests even bones disintegrate after a few hundred years, assuming a neutral environment within the casket.

            Considering the odds against fossilization to begin with, it would be ironic if the ritual of burying the dead to preserve their memory, ends up ensuring little record of modern human biology remains for future civilizations to

            • by Ambvai (1106941)

              What about the remains after modern embalming practices? This is not a field I have much knowledge of, but as I understand it, the body pretty much ends up so toxic and full of plasticizers that nothing wants it. Time does rather exhibit a beating on things, even without additional agents though... (It's sort of an even more extreme and long-lasting form of http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sokushinbutsu [wikipedia.org])

            • 1000 years from now people will find skeletons in caskets. We still find skeletons buried 1500 years back (and more) in a range of contexts, from sealed tombs to straight burial in the earth. Not many, it's true, and often in rubbish condition, but we find them. The future will find skeletons from our modern caskets, too - just perhaps not many, and often in rubbish condition. Still, it'll be more than enough for them to conclude that a coffin is a coffin. Plus, they'll have our headstones to work from. The

          • by Trogre (513942) on Wednesday March 14, 2012 @11:18PM (#39360895) Homepage

            Maybe not, but it will still be under copyright.

          • by quenda (644621)

            30000 years from now, no paper or electronic writing produced by the current generation will exist. Just what little we have carved into stone.

            Or plastic. Future civilizations will wonder at who the great Fisher Price may have been.

          • Given that still extant hunter gatherer societies do not have systems of writing, and known systems of writing all post-date agriculture, and arise only in agricultural societies it is probably safe to generalize and say they couldn't write. Probably because, like the remaining extant hunter gatherers in the Amazon or parts of Africa, they had no use for it. Societies were small, their knowledge base was small, and oral transmission was good enough. Why bother creating and then teaching an entirely new s

        • Re:Fascinating! (Score:5, Interesting)

          by jd (1658) <<moc.oohay> <ta> <kapimi>> on Wednesday March 14, 2012 @06:52PM (#39359249) Homepage Journal

          Possibly they did. By many of the paintings, there are symbols etched/painted. These are generally ignored, but it is entirely possible that this was proto-writing and new research is going into studying them.

          http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2012/mar/11/cave-painting-symbols-language-evolution [guardian.co.uk]

        • by Shavano (2541114)

          Writing always comes after agriculture. People who don't farm don't have a need to write.

          • by tehcyder (746570)

            Writing always comes after agriculture. People who don't farm don't have a need to write.

            Well, I can write and I'm not a farmer, so where does that leave your argument, eh? Nowhere, that's where.

        • by jandersen (462034)

          To paraphrase a nerd, if the cro-magnons who left cave paintings 30,000 years ago in France could've written something, they would've written something.

          And to paraphrase an article I read only yesterday, those Cro-Magnons left something other than paintings: symbolic marks that look more like "writing" than anything else (sorry, can't find the link now, it may have been on http://anthropology.tamu.edu/news [tamu.edu] which seems to be down at the moment). To be fair, nobody suggests that this is writing like we understand it, more like "proto-writing", but we are damned close, IMO. These symbols see to have been used over a very large area, and considering that it ta

      • Re:Fascinating! (Score:5, Informative)

        by MightyMartian (840721) on Wednesday March 14, 2012 @05:55PM (#39358733) Journal

        Hunter-gatherer groups do not have the population size, nor could they sustain the population size necessary to create sufficient specialization for something like scribes or a literate class. Writing had to wait until you had high enough populations and an economic system that could free some group from basic activities like food collection. In other words, you need an urban culture, and even with an urban culture it took a considerable length of time to develop writing. It wasn't an issue of intelligence, it was all down to economics.

        • Re:Fascinating! (Score:5, Insightful)

          by modmans2ndcoming (929661) on Wednesday March 14, 2012 @06:09PM (#39358857)

          And one of necessity....In a tribe, you can gather everyone together and talk to communicate to the population....in a city of thousands, you need something else. Sure town criers work but what bureaucracy needs a record to be maintained beyond what someone recollects a few months later....Who said a bureaucrat was worthless? I am it was a bureaucrat that invented writing in the first place.

          • Re:Fascinating! (Score:5, Informative)

            by MightyMartian (840721) on Wednesday March 14, 2012 @06:12PM (#39358877) Journal

            Some of the earliest examples of proto-writing in Sumeria appear to be tax records. It is both economies of scale and raw economic need of a large, complex state that drove the need for accurate record keeping. So you're right, it was bureaucrats that likely invented writing.

            • Re:Fascinating! (Score:5, Informative)

              by PapayaSF (721268) on Wednesday March 14, 2012 @06:43PM (#39359183) Journal

              So you're right, it was bureaucrats that likely invented writing.

              And yet it was Phoenician traders and merchants who spread a simple phonemic alphabet around the Mediterranean. Such an alphabet was easy to learn and could be used to transcribe many (all?) spoken languages. So thank business for that advance.

              • Re:Fascinating! (Score:5, Interesting)

                by MightyMartian (840721) on Wednesday March 14, 2012 @06:56PM (#39359277) Journal

                The alphabet was certainly the next big innovation, phonetic, easier to learn, could be applied to different languages without all the awkwardness one found in applying Sumerian systems to unrelated languages like Akkadian. In the history of writing it was the next big thing up until the printing press. Still, you have to give the earliest inventors of writing the credit, it still stands in my mind as the greatest single achievement of the human mind, from it springing pretty much everything we see today.

              • Thank government for the foundational breakthrough that business could not do....

                Thank government for developing a system that allowed business to even exist!

                • by khallow (566160)
                  Why should we "thank" them? None of the current governments had anything to do with it.
                • If you think government is the reason business exists you are sadly misinformed. Far more likely is government existing for the sake of business. Government doesn't develop any systems. They simply regulate existing systems at the supposed will of the people.
                  • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

                    by MightyMartian (840721)

                    Anyone with even the slimmest knowledge of history would know that governments were responsible for a considerable number of developments, likely even large scale agriculture and civilization themselves.

                    Then there are Libertarians, who, instead of history, just repeat idiotic slogans, too stupid and too self-important to even ponder whether the real world resembles them at all.

              • I will thank trade for just about every transmission of useful information in the last 10000 years if you will acknowledge the huge distinction between what modern people refer to as business and what actually spread the knowledge. Trade != Business != Corporations. They are three separate things, with some commonalities.
            • Once they proved that ancient man was indeed capable of 'death' it was only a matter of time before they found evidence for 'taxation'...as the saying goes...

        • by dryeo (100693)

          The hunter gatherers that lived around where I now live worked for 2 weeks out of the year. The ones a bit further away in a crappier situation had to work an hour or 2 a day. And they were all fairly stable.
          Lots of hunter gathers lived in very rich areas where food was laying about for the picking or showed up in a predictable manner.
          The locals also had a few people per settlement whose job (for lack of a better word) was remembering everything. What they lacked was a government and much in the way of busi

          • You still don't get the population densities. Not even perhaps the most sedentary hunter-gatherer groups out there like the Indians of the Pacific Northwest, ever had that high a population density. To create a truly large-scale stratified society means you have to make the land push out a lot of f---ing calories, a lot more than even the most plentiful land on its own will manage. It means developing agriculture, which can, per acre of land, push out more calories than even the most prosperous hunter-gathe

      • I am sure the future humans will see us as a bunch of moronic neanderthals that had no culture because we have no long lasting and readable way to record our story.

        • I'm pretty sure they won't. We have more than enough lasting memorials that demonstrate the level of technology - and the writing. Even some copies of War and Peace will survive to go along with the stone monuments erected to the glory of despots and the plastic boxes full of silicon and gold with "DELL" stamped on them, and little "Intel Inside!", "Core 2 Duo inside!" and Windows activation code stickers.

    • by Sponge Bath (413667) on Wednesday March 14, 2012 @05:51PM (#39358701)

      ...as recently as 10k years ago

      4000 years before God created Earth? You can't fool me with your elitist education.

      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward
        Actually, he's allowed to fool you at least once. A wise man once said "Fool me once, shame on, shame on you. Fool me -- you can't get fooled again."
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Empiric (675968)
        For those understanding the meaning of "allegory" (or who avoid pretending they don't to repeat a joke that was old for Slashdot 10 years ago), and/or very basic standard Judeo-Christian symbolism I'll just leave this here...

        Jesus said, "A grapevine has been planted outside of the Father, but being unsound, it will be pulled up by its roots and destroyed."

        --Gospel of Thomas, Saying 40

        Slashdot's own Mr. Extracanonical, checking in.
        • Gospel of Thomas, Saying 40

          If you want to be Mr. Extracanonical, you should be quoting the Gospel of John-Thomas.

        • Awesome post. I read the surrounding passages for context, searched for comments and pondered it for a while. In the end, I decided it was an ink blot. The only thing it reveals is about the interpreter.

        • What does that mean?

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by DigiShaman (671371)

      Cloning? To what end? Why did they die out in the first place? Ultimately, if they're genetically compatible do you really want to reintroduce their genetic lineage back into the modern human race? Relationships happen. That might be a step backwards for us even if the impact is negligible. Then you start talking about preemptive sterilization.

      I can think of at least half dozen ethical issues so far. It's a can of worms I really don't think we should be opening. Just my 2 cents.

      • You're right, of course. The ethical questions are staggering. I guess the geek side of me went "cool, I want to talk to these guys". Wouldn't it be cool to see if they were really like us? Haven't you always wondered if Neanderthals would see you as a fellow (albeit weird) "person"?
        • Re:Fascinating! (Score:5, Insightful)

          by buchner.johannes (1139593) on Wednesday March 14, 2012 @06:46PM (#39359197) Homepage Journal

          Cloning? To what end? Why did they die out in the first place? Ultimately, if they're genetically compatible do you really want to reintroduce their genetic lineage back into the modern human race? Relationships happen. That might be a step backwards for us even if the impact is negligible. Then you start talking about preemptive sterilization.

          I can think of at least half dozen ethical issues so far. It's a can of worms I really don't think we should be opening. Just my 2 cents.

          What kind of speciest talk is that? There is no direction and no step forwards or backwards in evolution. It is not directed, only adaptive. A concept of destiny is superstition. I don't mind mammoths being cloned, so what's the line?

          You're right, of course. The ethical questions are staggering. I guess the geek side of me went "cool, I want to talk to these guys". Wouldn't it be cool to see if they were really like us? Haven't you always wondered if Neanderthals would see you as a fellow (albeit weird) "person"?

          Neanderthals wouldn't stand out if you dressed them like us and educated them like our kids. The difference to them is smaller than the variety within homo sampiens. In fact, it hasn't been ruled out that there was mixing between Neanderthals and humans, so we might be all Neanderthals too.

          • You would probably notice a Neanderthal on the street, at least at second glance if not first. And currently the theory is that they did not have language, though why is less clear. As far as interbreeding, current balance of evidence is that we did.

          • What kind of speciest talk is that? There is no direction and no step forwards or backwards in evolution. It is not directed, only adaptive. A concept of destiny is superstition. I don't mind mammoths being cloned, so what's the line?

            There is a direction: we are alive and they are not. Unless they were wiped out by a freak event, it means we're genetically "better". And the line would be that preventing mammoths from interbreeding with elephants is not an ethical issue of the same caliber.

            • by mcgrew (92797) *

              Unless they were wiped out by a freak event, it means we're genetically "better".

              Only "better" in the sense that humans fit their environment better than these creatures did when they died out. The only "better" in evolution is "a better fit to the environment." It doesn't mean that any one species is better than another, just that one has an easier time staying alive and breeding.

        • by Fluffeh (1273756)

          I guess the geek side of me went "cool, I want to talk to these guys".

          The geek side of me thinks that if you truly are a geek, chances are that these folks would give you a wedgie, take your lunch money and play "Why did you smack yourself?" with you.

          Haven't you always wondered if Neanderthals would see you as a fellow (albeit weird) "person"?

          Two things come to mind, one serious and one funny. Firstly, if you want to meet a Neanderthal, start following Rugby and try to chat to this french player [wikipedia.org] heh. Secondly, if you do a google search for sub-human, you will find a multitude of articles (especially around WW2) where one bunch thought another bunch was sub-human. You

      • Re:Fascinating! (Score:5, Insightful)

        by IndustrialComplex (975015) on Wednesday March 14, 2012 @08:34PM (#39360017)

        Ultimately, if they're genetically compatible do you really want to reintroduce their genetic lineage back into the modern human race? Relationships happen. That might be a step backwards for us even if the impact is negligible

        Backwards? That assumes that there is a forwards to evolution.

        • True. There is no right or wrong way in evolution. It simply is the successful result of change. But let's face it. Bringing the dead back to life isn't isn't something that's ever happened in nature before and then reintroducing back into the breeding population. This would be a first. I suppose the closest it gets are plant seeds in deep hibernation.

          To go along with cloning and breeding into the population is truly walking into uncharted waters for humanity future. There are arguments to be made that we'

    • Re:Fascinating! (Score:4, Informative)

      by Michael Woodhams (112247) on Wednesday March 14, 2012 @06:53PM (#39359253) Journal

      Can we sequence DNA from them? Probably, but not certainly. Ancient DNA is a very tricky business. The preservation of DNA depends a lot on the conditions they've been in since death. Cold and dry is ideal. I know we've sequenced DNA over 30,000 years old, I'm not sure what the record is.

      Ancient human DNA is even trickier. If you're dealing with ancient bison DNA, you can largely avoid contamination problems by keeping the remains away from any modern bison. Keeping your human remains (and DNA samples extracted from them) away from modern humans isn't so easy. In this case, the cat is already out of the bag - the samples have been exposed to modern human DNA for decades. All is not lost, but it makes the job harder, and the outcome more open to doubt.

      Can we clone them? Absolutely not with current technology. We can't clone a cow from a fresh steak, yet alone 10,000 year old bones. It is conceivable that future technology would allow it. I don't think you'll ever get it past an ethics committee though.

  • by mfarah (231411) <miguel@f[ ]h.cl ['ara' in gap]> on Wednesday March 14, 2012 @05:39PM (#39358599) Homepage

    Besides Homo Sapiens, there are Neanderthals, Floresians (I ain't calling them "hobbits"), Denisovans and now these?

    Pre-history is getting crowded with failed competitors. Yay us?

    • by Anne_Nonymous (313852) on Wednesday March 14, 2012 @05:58PM (#39358759) Homepage Journal

      >> Homo Sapiens, ...Neanderthals, Floresians..., Denisovans

      Also the Orange People of New Jersey.

    • by erroneus (253617)

      You know, the aboriginals look pretty different in many ways. Their bodies look pretty much "normal human" though. I guess it comes down to how much difference do you need before you call them "another kind of human."

    • by reboot246 (623534)
      Don't forget lawyers!

      Well, they're almost human . . .
    • by tmosley (996283)
      Less "failed competitors" and more "kissing cousins", methinks. Probably every one of these species has been folded back into modern humanity. Homo sapiens just happens to be the dominant gene source.

      We'll have to look at the DNA to be sure.
      • by jd (1658)

        DNA says that some of the cousins did rather more than kiss. So long as it was all legal and proper, that's all right though.

      • "Homo sapiens just happens to be the dominant gene source."

        Even that becomes a relatively meaningless statement. What we now call Homo Sapiens is the result of tens of thousands of years of evolution *and* interbreeding with closely-related strains of humanity. We know that non sub-Saharan Africans interbred with Neanderthals (meaning most likely that a lot of African populations also have Neanderthal genes spread through them at a lower level, given humanity's tendency to intermingle along population borde

    • Pre-history is getting crowded with failed competitors. Yay us?

      Well, our ancestors had to eat *something*.

    • >how many more are there

      Depends on what you mean. You listed species that co-existed with Homo sapiens, if that is what you mean, there could be a few more to find. If you mean something broader, like Hominina (modern humans and extinct relatives), there is a large number already known, and lots more to come.

    • Actually there were many many more branches of hominids that failed survive......the ones you named are just are most recent competition.

  • They lasted til the end of the ice age and then died-out when the earth grew warmer. I wonder why? Any idea what they looked like?

    • by mfarah (231411)

      Perhaps they were Yetis?

    • I am sure homo Sapiens expanded into their territory now that the ice age opened natural barriers and...by that time we were sufficiently brutish enough that we probably went to war for their resources.

    • by erroneus (253617)

      Big change always brings about extinction events. You can bet they lost out on an important food source. One of the things about modern humans is that we can eat so many different kinds of foods. It has kept us going through other major climate changes you know.

  • by Tyrannosaur (2485772) on Wednesday March 14, 2012 @05:48PM (#39358671)

    And I thought we got over scientific racism a long time ago...

  • Misleading title (Score:4, Insightful)

    by K. S. Kyosuke (729550) on Wednesday March 14, 2012 @06:03PM (#39358807)
    Based on the title, I thought that mankind has just made another evolutionary leap! But no, it's actually an old human species, not a new one.
  • Named the Red Deer Cave people, after their apparent penchant for home-cooked venison...

    Of course, we know that rest of the human species at the time preferred takeout...

    • by jd (1658)

      The ones in Manchester, England, certainly preferred takeout. With stone knives from Essex Culture found in London, Essex lads were partial to finding the best eateries even then.

  • by ace37 (2302468) on Wednesday March 14, 2012 @06:11PM (#39358867) Homepage

    We have Pygmies today across Africa. They've endured a lot of human rights issues over the years, and theories are out suggesting Iodine deficiencies are related to their short stature.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pygmies [wikipedia.org]

    Why do we see papers about recent human evolutionary theory only when it pertains to extinct peoples? Are the currently living pygmies less studied simply because anthropologists aren't interested in living people, and nobody else is into these fields of science?

  • i could make a poor taste joke about cheap Chinese knockoffs right about now...

  • by voss (52565) on Wednesday March 14, 2012 @06:23PM (#39358967)

    We just don't recognize them because their bones are buried or cremated and we generally dont go digging up graves.

  • Politicians. Apparently descended from some inbred Neanderthals...

  • The journal article that is being linked to is open-access. There is no paywall, regardless of where you are accessing it from. You can download it and print as many copies as you want, you can even download it and repost it in its entirety on your own website if you feel like it. You can do the same with every article in the PLoS journals as well.
  • Wow, I thought they were talking about a new species, but it turns out they're talking about old ones.

    The mix of characteristics suggests that they might have been a distinct species, but may be just a mixed ancestry of barely premodern human types.

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