100,000-Year-Old Human Skull Displays Characteristics Long Thought to Occur only In Neanderthals

100,000-Year-Old Human Skull Displays Characteristics Long Thought to Occur only In Neanderthals

A research by Washington University in St. Louis has broken a preconceived notion of scientists. Researchers found the inner ear of a 100,000-year-old fossilized early human skull 35 years ago in northern China.

The inner ear had characteristics, which previously were considered to be limited to Neanderthals alone. But the new study suggests that the inner Neanderthals were not unique to Neanderthals and were more geographically widespread.

Study co-author Erik Trinkaus said the discovery left them completely surprised. Researchers have based their findings on the recent micro-CT scans. The scans unveiled about the inner ear structure having a temporal bone of the fossilized human skull that was found in the excavation process of 1970s at the Xujiayao site in China's Nihewan Basin.

The skull is named as Xujiayao 15 and was found along with other human teeth and bone fragments. All these characteristics were atypical of Neanderthal form. Trinkaus said they had expected the scan to reveal a temporal labyrinth akin to a modern human one.

But they were shocked to know that it was typical of a Neanderthal. "This discovery places into question whether this arrangement of the semicircular canals is truly unique to the Neanderthals", affirmed Trinkaus.

In the mid 1990s, CT scans revealed that almost all Neanderthals had semicircular canals in the temporal labyrinth. Since that time, researchers have used this pattern to differentiate Neanderthals from earlier and modern humans.

The recent finding has added to the theories that aim to explain human origins, migration patterns and possibly their interbreeding. The study has been published in the U.S. journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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