On 25 June 2021, an international research team announced a proposed new human species from China, which they named Homo longi.1 The specimen is a well-preserved cranium (skull), called the Harbin cranium. It was first unearthed in the province Heilongjiang, meaning ‘Black Dragon River’ (the exact location is uncertain), so its owner was nicknamed ‘Dragon Man’.
Dug up in 1933, the Harbin2 cranium was subsequently hidden from the invading Japanese army in a well. It was later retrieved, and in 2018, donated to Hebei GEO University. They announced a U-series (uranium-thorium radiometric) ‘age’ of the skull itself of over 146,000 years.
The braincase capacity is 1,420 cc—just a little bigger than the modern human average. Evolutionists regard the robust3 features of ‘archaic’ humans, like Neanderthals for instance, as more ‘primitive’ (in evolutionary terms) than the more delicate features of the supposedly more highly evolved modern humans, known as ‘gracile’. Gracile humans are alleged to be ‘derived’ from an earlier ‘archaic’ condition. The ‘Dragon Man’ skull is said to display “a mosaic of primitive and derived characters.”1 ‘Mosaic’ here implies that it has certain characters typical of robust humans, and others typical of more gracile humans. This is in contrast to each of the characters being a blend, mid-way between their condition in each group.
The researchers described some of its ‘robust’ traits as “a low vault, strong browridges, large molars, and alveolar prognathism4 as in most archaic humans.” They further stated that the “combination of an archaic but large-brained cranial vault and a wide but H. sapiens-like face is striking, and is also found in the less-complete Middle Pleistocene Chinese fossils from Dali and Jinniushan, although they differ in details of morphology.”1
New species? Probably not!
Not all evolutionists agree with assigning Dragon Man to a new species. An article in New Scientist gave two reasons why this is particularly so. One was that “H. longi seems to be more closely related to [i.e. more similar to] modern humans than the Neanderthals were”.5 The other reason is that we know from DNA that “modern humans and Neanderthals interbred successfully on many occasions.”5
Interbreeding by definition makes humans and Neanderthals the same biological species. This is one of several reasons creationists have long pointed out that Neanderthals were fully human descendants of Adam and Eve, and more specifically of the eight humans that survived Noah’s Flood some 4,500 years ago. In other words, Dragon Man is just another robust human. Some researchers believe the skull may be from a Denisovan, a people type so far known only from DNA and small bone fragments.
Finds such as Harbin (and others, like Dali and Jinniushan mentioned above) may well be explained by interbreeding between different human subgroups of the same species. This can give rise to appearances that are sometimes ‘blended’ in general character, and at other times mosaic, like Harbin. Such subgroups would include, for example, those specimens broadly categorized as Homo erectus, Homo heidelbergensis, Homo neanderthalensis, Denisovan, and modern-type Homo sapiens—all fully human descendants of Adam and Eve. Even some evolutionists have held that it is not really appropriate to give any of these people groups a separate species name to our own.
So the Harbin cranium appears to be ‘no big deal’. Nonetheless, the find received much publicity. An article by an international news agency said the skull “could fundamentally alter our understanding of human evolution”.6 Catchphrases such as this are used so often, nearly with every new find, as to be meaningless. But they do highlight the shifting sands on which ‘human evolution’ ideas are built.
References and notes
- Ni, X. et al., Massive cranium from Harbin establishes a new Middle Pleistocene human lineage in China, The Innovation 2:100130, 2021. Return to text.
- Harbin is the provincial capital. Return to text.
- See my article; creation.com/explaining-robust-humans. Return to text.
- Protrusion of the part of the upper jaw where the front teeth are located. Return to text.
- George, A. and Marshall, M., More tangles in our human story, New Scientist 250(3341):10–11, 3 Jul 2021. Return to text.
- AFP, ‘Dragon Man’: Scientists say new human species is our closest ancestor, 26 Jun 2021, weeklytimesnow.com.au. Return to text.