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China Science

Possible New Human Species Discovered In China 234

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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  • by mfarah ( 231411 ) <> on Wednesday March 14, 2012 @06:39PM (#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?

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

    by MightyMartian ( 840721 ) on Wednesday March 14, 2012 @06:55PM (#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, Informative)

    by MightyMartian ( 840721 ) on Wednesday March 14, 2012 @07:12PM (#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 @07:43PM (#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:4, Informative)

    by Michael Woodhams ( 112247 ) on Wednesday March 14, 2012 @07:53PM (#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.

  • 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.

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