Researchers recently discovered a fossilized jawbone that could have belonged to a new type of prehistoric human. The jawbone, originally found by fishermen in the Penghu Channel near Taiwan, has features which suggest it predates previously discovered hominids. Taiwanese fishermen found the fossilized jawbone and sold it to a local antique shop. Researchers later discovered the mandible, and were amazed when they realized what the bone could indicate.
Based on evidence from other ancient human fossils, scientists understand that human jaws and teeth became smaller as they evolved over time. The Taiwanese jawbone is smooth and thick with large molars, and researchers estimate its age at nearly 200,000 years old. That combination of details suggests that the jawbone belonged to a different type of human than others already discovered by science. It means that this jawbone belonged to an ancient human who lived in Asia before Homo sapiens existed.
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Scientists have already identified three other ancient Asian hominids: Homo erectus was found in modern-day Java and China, Homo florensiensis in Indonesia, and Neanderthals in Russia’s Altai mountains. This discovery indicates that a fourth type of hominid existed prior to all three of these. Researchers have already spent five years examining and testing the Taiwanese bone, which they have dubbed Penghu 1, after the channel in which it was found. But they’re pretty confident in saying that this fossil is a wake-up call about how little we really know about the origin of our species.
Images via Y.Kaifu