300,000-year-old skull found in China unlike any early human seen before

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According to new research, an old skull that dates back 300,000 years is unlike any other premodern human fossil ever discovered and may indicate a new branch in the human family tree.

The skull, specifically the mandible, or lower jaw, was found in the Hualongdong region of eastern China in 2015 together with 15 other artifacts that were all believed to date from the late Middle Pleistocene.

The discovery was made by an international team of researchers from China, Spain, and the United Kingdom.

The late Middle Pleistocene, which began around 300,000 years ago, is thought by scientists to have been a crucial time in the evolution of hominins, 

or creatures that are thought to be closely related to humans or people, including contemporary humans.

The research team discovered that the mandible, known as HLD 6, is "unexpected" and does not fit into any existing taxonomic categories in a study that was published on July 31 in the Journal of Human Evolution.

According to the study, many Pleistocene hominid fossils found in China have been similarly challenging to categorize and were previously thought to be outliers. 

The knowledge of the evolutionary pattern in the late Middle Pleistocene, however, is steadily altering as a result of this discovery and other recent study.

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