Scientists Unearth a 14,000-Year-Old Leg Bone That Could Overturn Human History | Kulture Kritic
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Scientists Unearth a 14,000-Year-Old Leg Bone That Could Overturn Human History

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Scientists Unearth a 14,000-Year-Old Leg Bone That Could Overturn Human History

By Victor Ochieng

A 14,000-year-old thigh bone unearthed in southwest China is likely to upend human history. The femur looks similar to those of ancient human species believed to have been long extinct by the Late Pleistocene.

To better demonstrate the similarities and differences, the scientists published the femur alongside those of ancient and modern humans. In the Thursday publication on PLOS ONE journal, the scientists made an argument that the femur represents that of ancient humans who apparently lived just recently.

Should they be right, the way we look at human history would dramatically change. It’s only Homo sapiens, our human species, who’re currently walking the earth, but others such as Neanderthals, Denisovants, Homo habilis, and Homo erectus, also walked the earth in the past.

It’s been reported that some of these extinct species even interacted with our human species, as some people have Denisovan genes in them.

So, how will the new finding alter recorded history if it’s true?

Well, one of the universally held belief by scientists is that more than one human species living on earth at the same time happened only tens of thousands of years back. In fact, Neanderthals, who’re considered to be our closest, are said to have walked the earth 40,000 years ago.

“Until now, it was thought that archaic humans on mainland Asia had survived no later than around 100,000 years ago,” study author Darren Curnoe tells the Monitor in an email. “So, to find a human bone that resembles very ancient humans that is only around 14,000 years old is a real surprise.”

Not wanting to jump to conclusions, Dr. Curnoe said “we need to be a bit careful,” understanding that what’s been unearthed is solely one bone.  However, he contends that should the femur truly represent one of these ancient humans, “there must also have been an overlap in time between archaic and modern humans for tens of thousands of years in Southwest China.”

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David Begun, a paleoanthropologist at the University of Toronto, who heard of the discovery but isn’t affiliated with the study, had a terse response during an interview with the Monitor in which he simply stated, “I’m not convinced.”

He went on to say that to him “it’s just a Late Pleistocene, Early Holocene population that just looks a little bit different, that really doesn’t have anything especially archaic about it.”

Describing the bone, which was discovered alongside other fossils in Maludong, also called Red Deer Cave, Curnoe says that the bone “is very small; the shaft is narrow, with the outer layer of the shaft [or cortex] very thin; the walls of the shaft are reinforced [or buttressed] in areas of high strain; the femur neck is long; and the place of muscle attachment for the primary flexor muscle of the hip [the lesser trochanter] is very large and faces strongly backwards.”

The belief that the bone is archaic and belongs to ancient human species is drawn from the measurements, which Curnoe says display “a clear association between the femur and the bones of the earliest members of the human genus Homo.”

In 2012, the same team found skulls at the same site and gave them the same description.

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