Dragon Man

How ancient is the slumbering Dragon … Man?

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science.

Neanderthals, our genetic cousins, lived in Europe and West Asia thousands of years ago. But what do we know about human relatives who lived in EAST Asia? 

Dragon Man is a human skull found in Heilongjiang, meaning “Black Dragon River.” Qingfeng Shao from Nanjing Normal University, China, and his international colleagues wondered – when did Dragon Man live, in the flowing rivers of human history?

To find out Dragon Man’s age, the researchers decided to get their hands dirty. Literally! The dirt on the skull contains rare earth elements, or R.E.Es. These are seventeen metallic elements, often found together in soil. Fossils from the same area have similar amounts of R.E.Es if they’re roughly the same age.

And . . . Dragon Man has a match! Its R.E.E makeup is closest to fossils from around TWO HUNDRED THOUSAND years ago!

Learning more about Dragon Man can reveal how humans evolved and migrated in Asia.

Hmmm, what other secrets has Dragon Man kept under his skull?

Reference: Shao, Q., Ge, J., Ji, Q., Li, J., Wu, W., Ji, Y., Zhan, T., Zhang, C., Li, Q., Grün, R., Stringer, C., & Ni, X. (2021). Geochemical provenancing and direct dating of the Harbin archaic human cranium. The Innovation, 2021 DOI: 10.1016/j.xinn.2021.100131