Million-year-old fossilized skull of Homo erectus excavated in central China
WUHAN, Dec. 26 (Xinhua) -- The fossilized "No. 3 Skull of Yunxian Man" has been successfully unearthed, and researchers have begun to repair and research it, the Hubei provincial department of culture and tourism announced on Monday.
The skull is believed to be the most intact Homo erectus specimen of its age found in inland Eurasia. It was discovered on May 18 at an early Paleolithic period site in central China's Hubei Province, where the first and second such skulls, dating back 800,000 to 1.1 million years, were respectively unearthed in 1989 and 1990.
The excavation encountered difficulties as the third skull was surrounded by multiple animal fossils. It took archaeologists six months to remove the rock surrounding the skull and separate the human fossils from animal fossils and stone items.
Researchers carried out three-dimensional modeling over 20 times, took more than 200,000 photos, videoed the whole excavation process, and extracted more than 1,400 sedimentary samples, said Lu Chengqiu, director of the excavation project.
Gao Xing, a researcher at the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology under the Chinese Academy of Sciences, said the well-preserved third skull will fill the research gap left by the deformed natures of the first two.
The new skull will provide important evidence for the evolution of the Homo erectus and its origin and development in East Asia, Gao said.
A significant number of stone tools found at the site have also proved the Yunxian Man was able to hunt, making and using tools millions of years ago. Multiple fossils of herbivorous animals such as elephants, horses and cattle were also unearthed at the site, and researchers speculate they are the remains of Yunxian Man's meals.