Artist's impression of the appearance of the Dragon Man. Credit: Kai Geng

Dragon Man; A New Human Species Found by Experts–10 Things you need to know

Another previously unknown human species has been revealed.


Scientists from China and Great Britain published three articles in The Innovation magazine ( 1 , 2 , 3 ) devoted to the analysis of an ancient perfectly preserved skull from the city of Harbin. They came to the conclusion that the find is not less than 146 thousand years old and it belonged to a representative of a previously unknown species of people, which they named Homo longi (“Dragon Man”).

However, prominent researchers were skeptical about the findings of their colleagues and suggested that this is probably the first discovered skull of a Denisovan man.

In 2010, an article was published in Nature, reporting the discovery of a previously unknown species of people – the Denisovan man. This became possible due to the development of paleogenetics.

For a long time, the only place where the remains of this species were found was the Denisova Cave in the Soloneshensky District of the Altai Territory. Over the years, scientists have been able to find small fragments of bones and teeth of five individuals, including one mestizo child, whose mother turned out to be a Neanderthal.

Subsequently, researchers found that in China, back in 1980, on the Tibetan plateau, they found a jaw belonging to a Denisovan. However, archaeologists did not lose hope of finding a full-fledged skull in Asia.

The skull of the 146,000-year-old man, now believed to have belonged to a representative of an unknown human species. Credit: Xijun Ni et al. / The Innovation, 2021

A New Human Species: The Dragon Man

1. Qiang Ji from Hebei Geological University, together with scientists from China and the UK, published several articles on the study of an ancient skull discovered almost a century ago.

2. The authors came to the conclusion that the find more than 146 thousand years old refers to a previously unknown species of people of the Middle Pleistocene, which they named Homo longi (translated as “dragon man”).

Latest version of the human family tree including the skull of the Dragon Man from the city of Harbin. Credit: Ni et al.
Latest version of the human family tree including the skull of the Dragon Man from the city of Harbin. Credit: Ni et al.

3. The skull itself was discovered back in 1933 by a captive Chinese during the construction of a bridge in the city of Harbin. Fearing that his find would be taken away by the Japanese guards, he wrapped it in cloth and hid it in the well.

4. The Chinese told his descendants about this shortly before his death. They also found the skull and donated it to the Museum of the Hebei Geological University.

5. The Harbin skull is massive in size – larger than other known archaic finds and is comparable to Homo sapiens and Homo neanderthalensis.

6. At the same time, the brain itself, despite its large volume (about 1420 milliliters), was more primitive than that of the ancestors of modern people of that time.

Artist's impression of a Dragon Man in his habitat. Credit: Chuang Zhao
Artist’s impression of a Dragon Man in his habitat. Credit: Chuang Zhao

7. The combination of apomorphic and plesiomorphic characters distinguishes the Harbin man from other Middle Pleistocene species – H. sapiens, H. Erectus, H. neanderthalensis, H. heidelbergensis / rhodesiensis.

8. The Science editors cited the opinions of prominent experts regarding the findings of the study. For example, Marta Lahr from the University of Cambridge is delighted with the find itself but skeptical about the thesis of a new parallel line of Homo.

9. Paleoanthropologist Jean-Jacques Hublin believes that this perfectly preserved skull belonged to a Denisovan. Moreover, the only non-Chinese scientist to take part in the study, Chris Stringer of the Natural History Museum, is also convinced that the find belongs to a Denisovan man.

10. The only way to close the dispute is with a genetic analysis, which Chinese scientists have not yet done.

Interestingly, this is the second previously unknown human species that was revealed this month. Last week, researchers published the results of studies on a mandible and teeth of an individual that lived about 120 thousand years ago in Israel.

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Gibbons, A. (2021, June 25). Stunning ‘Dragon Man’ skull may be an elusive Denisovan-or a new species of human. Science
Ji, Q. (n.d.). Late Middle Pleistocene Harbin cranium represents a new Homo species.
Ni, X. (n.d.). Massive cranium from Harbin in northeastern China establishes a new Middle Pleistocene human lineage.
Shao, Q. (n.d.). Geochemical provenancing and direct dating of the Harbin archaic human cranium.
Wei-Haas, M. (2021, June 25). ‘Dragon Man’ skull may be new species, shaking up human family tree. Science.


Written by Vladislav Tchakarov

Hello, my name is Vladislav and I am glad to have you here on Curiosmos. As a history student, I have a strong passion for history and science, and the opportunity to research and write in this field on a daily basis is a dream come true.

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