PALEOHUMAN DISCOVERIES ARE COMING FAST AND FURIOUS, both from the genetics side and from the discovery of new bones. Think about it – until 2010, we knew NOTHING about Denisovans – didn’t even know they’d existed, much less contributed more to our gene pool (at least in SE Asians) than Neanderthals had. Now, from genetic data, we’re able to break Denisovans into three groups and speculate that they may have interbred with us as recently as 15,000 years ago.
Separately, in the Philippines, a new hominin line has been found and named Homo luzonensis. An interesting mix of mostly archaic with some modern elements, they were probably small, tree-climbers who lived until about 50,000 years ago (LINK). Interesting–new dating indicates that is roughly when Homo floresiensis also died out, in both cases not long after we showed up in the area. Hmmm.
But back to the Denisovans – it’s possible that we didn’t kill off or absorb their population immediately after encountering them, that we interbred with them for many millennia. This may boost Darren Curnoe’s controversial theory that the Red Deer people of China (age dated to about 12,000 years ago) were a hybrid mix of Denisovans and early modern humans (LINK). The Red Deer people are, again, a mix of archaic features (big molars, jutting jaw, no chin, heavy-browed) and modern. Unfortunately, no one has yet been able to get genetic info from the Red Deer bones. So we have lots of genetics and few bones from Denisovans, and the reverse situation for the Red Deer people. The cool and fascinating part of all this is that we’ll likely get answers to these big questions in just a few months or years! But with the answers will come wonderful new questions and mysteries.
Additional Link from The Smithsonian: A New Human Ancestor Species Was Discovered in the Philippines