To work out where the Harbin individual fitted into human history, the scientists fed measurements from the fossil and 95 other skulls into software that compiled the most likely family tree. To their surprise, the Harbin skull and a handful of others from China formed a new branch closer to modern humans than Neanderthals.
The Chinese researchers believe the Harbin skull is distinct enough to make it a new species, but Stringer is not convinced. He believes it is similar to another found in Dali county in China in 1978.
“I prefer to call it Homo daliensis, but it’s not a big deal,” he said. “The important thing is the third lineage of later humans that are separate from Neanderthals and separate from Homo sapiens.” Details are published in three papers in The Innovation.