A fossilized jawbone belonging to the first known prehistoric human from Taiwan was recently discovered off the coast of Penghu Island.
Fishermen dredged up the jawbone in the Penghu Channel, around 25 kilometers off the west coast of Taiwan, and sold it to an antique shop, where it was purchased by a collector and later donated to the National Museum of Natural Science in Taiwan.
Chun-hsiang Chang, who works in the Geology Department at the National Museum of Natural Science, along with Dr. Yousuke Kaifu, an associate professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at The University of Tokyo, led a research team to further investigate the fossil and published their findings in the latest issue of Nature Communications.
The newly discovered human, called “Penghu 1”, is believed to have lived as recently as 10,000 years ago. Its mandible, with unusually large teeth and a strong jaw, is unlike any other human fossils found in East Asia, leading researchers to believe that Homo sapiens lived among other species of early human in Asia.
“The available evidence at least does not exclude the possibility that they survived until the appearance of Homo sapiens in the region, and it is tempting to speculate about their possible contact,” said Kaifu.
The research team theorized that Penghu 1 could represent a new human species or regional group of Homo erectus, remains of which have been found in Indonesia, Java and mainland China. Those remains have much narrower jawbones and smaller teeth.
“What we can say is that it is clearly different from the known Homo erectus populations from northern China and Java, and likely represent a group that has been so far unrecognized so,” Kaifu said.
Chris String of the National History Museum, who is not involved with the study, agreed: “This enigmatic fossil is difficult to classify, but it highlights the growing and not unexpected evidence of human diversity in the Far East, with the apparent coexistence of different lineages in the region prior to, and perhaps even contemporary with, the arrival of modern humans some 55,000 years ago.”
[Image via Discovery News]