Anthropology the Red Deer Cave People of China

The Red Deer Cave People are a highly important scientific discovery as it pertains to the evolution of human beings. Ironically, though, the discoveries of the fossilized remains in two different caves in southwestern China occurred in 1979, and 1989 respectively, and were left untouched for decades.

The 1979 fossils were removed from Longlin Cave by a geological expert inspecting the area. The lower jaw, some fragments of rib and limbs were subsequently removed from the cave’s interior wall. The remaining skeletal structure was left in a large block of rock. The remains were then housed in the basement of the Yunnan Institute of Cultural Relics and Archaeology in Kunming, Yunnan. It is within this safe; subterranean location the Longlin Cave discovery sat for thirty years: No research activity was conducted during this duration of time. (So, basically, the fossilized remnants/parts sat undisturbed; forgotten for three decades.)

A researcher at the Yunnan Institute by the name of Ji Xueping came upon the Longlin Cave relics; and responded to the rediscovery of the fossilized fragments by partnering with a geological expert: Darren Curnoe. Curnoe’s role was responsibility of leading a team of researchers at the prominent University of New South Wales located in Australia. Curnoe reported that it was clear the remains were primitive and significant from a scientific standpoint.

The 1979 fossilized remnants were extracted from the large block of rock taken from the Longlin Cave location by a trained and highly-skilled technician. The technical expert then made it a point to reassemble all the fossilized pieces. In reassembly of the 11,000 year old bones, the basic appearance of the Red Deer Cave People became definite or apparent. The people possessed very broad noses, large eye sockets; large molars, protruding jaws and very prominent brow bones.

Charcoal taken from the Longlin site, originally sitting next to the significant fossils revealed that the remains were approximately 11,500 years old. The research with respect to the Longlin Cave site was initiated in 2009.

Another location wherein workers made the discovery of similar fossilized bones occurred in 1989 at Maludong or Red Deer Cave in Yunnan. Workers were mining limestone when they discovered the archaic bones. The fossils were skillfully excavated at the time by area archaeologists; however, similar to the Longlin Cave Relics, the fossilized remains sat nearly untouched inside a Science institute in Mengzi for almost 20 years. A year before conducting study of the Longlin Cave fossils; Ji and Curnoe began research of the ’89 discovery. (The research of the ’89 discovery was initiated in 2008.)

Curnoe and his research team with regard to the second discovery of ’89 visited the Maludong site and were able to successfully unearth even more fossils. They placed the new finds alongside or with the fossils excavated previously in 1989. They concluded the fossilized remains were approximately 14,500 years old.

The similarity of the cave dwellers’ appearances with respect to the two caves wherein discoveries were made provided a tie-in, indicating the people were one and the same type/species.

The Red Deer Cave People represent somewhat of a puzzle to the scientific community. Important questions and considerations remain with regard to their certain habitation of the area in southwestern China:

1)  Are the remains of these Stone Age people representative of a distinct tribe of new human species?

2)  Are the fossilized bones, those of primitive yet contemporary humans which migrated from Africa, even as far as China? The migration of these humans may have lasted for a period of many millennia before their extinction twelve thousand years prior to the current time.

3)  The more archaic appearance of the Red Deer Cave People suggests more primitive-style humans existed during the same period of time as their contemporary counterparts, or more contemporary appearing species located in other portions of Asia.

Appropriate classification of the remains can only happen after proper DNA testing is conducted. The DNA will determine if the Red Deer Cave People are modern day peoples with rustic features who migrated to the area from the African continent early on; making no significant genetic contributions to the East Asian race or, alternatively, a new species entirely.

Challenges remain when extracting DNA from fossilized remains. One challenge is the extracted DNA , over time, breaks down and is replaced by elements within the soil. The occurrence of the preceding event happening is particularly true in warmer climates. However, until DNA is properly tested; using good samples from fossilized remains, true, decisive classification remains an impossibility.

The Red Deer Cave People attained their name from the scientific community’s conclusion that the tribe of archaic featured individuals ate a great deal of venison. Too: it does not appear the Red Deer Cave People initiated any farming activity.

In the meantime, the scientific community awaits results as to whether or not the Red Deer Cave People are a new, distinct evolutionary line; still non-defined. An alternative theory is the Red Deer Cave People are the result of mating between contemporary humans and Denisovans-the latter considered archaic as to form. (Note: The fossilized remnant of a prehistoric man was found in close proximity of where it is the Red Deer Cave People habitated inside Denisovan Cave.)