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Ancient human ancestors may have lived until dawn of civilization

A man walks past a sign showing the evolution of man in a business district in downtown Tokyo November 17, 2008. Japan slid into its first recession in seven years in the third quarter as exports crumbled, and some analysts said an escalation in the global financial crisis may have put the economy on course for its longest ever contraction. REUTERS/Michael Caronna (JAPAN)
A man walks past a sign showing the evolution of man in a business district in downtown Tokyo November 17, 2008. Japan slid into its first recession in seven years in the third quarter as exports crumbled, and some analysts said an escalation in the global financial crisis may have put the economy on course for its longest ever contraction. REUTERS/Michael Caronna (JAPAN)

Washington: A thigh bone found in China suggests that an ancient species of human, thought to be long extinct, may have lived among our modern cousins.

The 14,000 year old bone found among the remains of China’s enigmatic ‘Red Deer Cave people’ has been shown to have features that resemble those of some of the most ancient members of the human genus, (Homo), despite its young age.

The findings result from a detailed study of the partial femur, which had lain unstudied for more than a quarter of a century in a museum in southeastern Yunnan, following its excavation along with other fossilised remains from Maludong (‘Red Deer Cave’) in 1989.

The investigators found that the thigh bone matched those from species like Homo habilis and early Homo erectus that lived more than 1.5 million years ago but are cautious about its identity.

Its young age suggests the possibility that primitive-looking humans could have survived until very late in the evolution, but the researchers need to be careful as it is just one bone, said Professor Ji Xueping from the Yunnan Institute of Cultural Relics and Archaeology (YICRA, China).

The new find hints at the possibility a pre-modern species may have overlapped in time with modern humans on mainland East Asia, but the case needs to be built up slowly with more bone discoveries, researcher Darren Curnoe said.

The study is published today in the journal PLOS ONE. (ANI)