Skull found in China may belong to a ‘Dragon Man’ that lived one million years ago

A mysterious ancient hominid skull found in China may have been the love child of two species, according to researchers.

They believe the 900,000-year-old individual was a hybrid – part us, Homo sapien, and part Homo longi, a long-lost species known as the ‘Dragon Man’.

The skull, dubbed ‘the Yunxian Man’ after the Yunyang district of Hubei province was discovered in 2022, baffled archaeologists due to its strange shape and features

The new study reconstructed a complete 3D model of the skull, showing that it had the facial bones of a human, but a flattened skull, closed eyes and the thicker brow bone of Homo longi.

Based on the preliminary findings, it was concluded that the person called ‘the Yunxian Man’ was descended from our ‘long-lost sister line’.

This partial skull fossil, which had been damaged over the years, was reconstructed in its full glory using 3D models. It led researchers to believe that this could be one of the last common ancestors between Dragonmen and humans.

The Dragon Man, scientifically called Homo longi, had a thick upper head bone and large, angular eye sockets.  An illustrator has shown that probability here.

The Dragon Man, scientifically called Homo longi, had a thick upper head bone and large, angular eye sockets. An illustrator has shown that probability here.

“It is reasonable to conclude that Yunxian is morphologically and chronologically close to the last common ancestor of the H. sapiens and Dragon Man genera,” the authors wrote in the study published as a pre-print on the research site. BioRxiv.

The skull was one of three found in China over the past fifty years that have baffled scientists as to their origins.

Determining which bone belongs to which species may seem like simple science, but scientists still can’t agree on how many hominin species there have been in our recent archaeological history, Anna Goldfield, an archaeologist at Boston University, wrote for

It is generally accepted that there were two archaic human species – Neanderthals and Denisovans – which roamed the Earth as separate groups until about 30,000 years ago – and had different characteristics.

But the The Yuxian male skull was difficult to put into one category.

Based on its physical characteristics and location, researchers thought it could be a member of the Denisovan family that originated in Asia about 500,000 years ago.

Although the Yunxian man had an elongated skull, similar to Denisovan’s, he also had distinctive, angular eyes that set him apart.

However, researchers have speculated that the ‘Dragon Man’ lineage could also include Denisovans, as the groups lived on Earth around the same time.

After analyzing the new skull, researchers determined that its features were similar to those of early humans and Dragon Men, meaning it was likely an offspring of both.

Homo longi had large, block-shaped eye sockets, molars much larger than ours, a thick brow bone and a brain size comparable to that of humans, Professor Goldfield said.

And those characteristics were observed in the Yunxian human skull.

“The reconstructed Yunxian 2 suggests that it is an early member of the Asian ‘Dragon Man’ lineage, which probably also includes the Denisovans, and that it is the sister group to the Homo sapiens lineage,” the authors wrote.

‘Both the H. sapiens and Dragon Man lineages had deep roots extending beyond the Middle Pleistocene, and the basal position of the Yunx fossil skull suggests that it represents a population close to the last common ancestor of the lies two lines.’

This paper has yet to be reviewed by other scientists, but previous research on Dragon Men by lead author, paleoanthropologist Xijun Ni has been published in journals such as The Innovation.

Modern humans became their own species, called Homo sapiens, about a million years ago. They started in Africa, but soon spread throughout the world.

The researchers used 3D modeling to reconstruct the skull, as it was damaged and flattened.

The researchers used 3D modeling to reconstruct the skull, as it was damaged and flattened.

Neanderthals emerged in Europe and Asia about 400,000 years ago.

Their skulls were long, they had a thick rim above their eyes, and they had a wider, larger nose than most modern Homo sapiens.

They also had a weaker, less prominent chin, according to the NHM.

Denisovans are also native to Asia, as their only fossils have been found in Siberia and China – but researchers think they likely roamed the entire Asian continent, the researchers said. The Australian Museum.

Relatively little is known about this class of people, as researchers have found only eleven partial Denisovan fossils.

Even with that limited selection, scientists found that Denisovan jaws were much more distinct than those of Neanderthals. Their teeth were much larger and their pelvises were much wider than those of modern humans, but their fingers looked like ours.

Although each of these species is unique, they were genetically similar enough that they could mate, much as horses and donkeys can mate to form a mule.

Mate, they did. There are people today who have one to four percent Neanderthal DNA and four to six percent Denisovan DNA, according to the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History.


The timeline of human evolution goes back millions of years. Experts estimate that the family tree goes as follows:

55 million years ago – The first primitive primates evolve

15 million years ago – Hominidae (great apes) evolve from the ancestors of the gibbon

7 million years ago – The first gorillas evolve. Later, the lines of chimpanzees and humans diverge

5.5 million years ago – Ardipithecus, early ‘proto-human’, shares traits with chimpanzees and gorillas

4 million years ago – Ape-like early humans, the Australopithecines appeared. They had brains no bigger than a chimpanzee’s, but different, more human features

3.9-2.9 million years ago – Australoipithecus afarensis lived in Africa.

2.7 million years ago – Paranthropus, lived in the forest and had huge jaws for chewing

2.6 million years ago – Hand axes become the first major technological innovation

2.3 million years ago – Homo habilis initially appeared in Africa

1.85 million years ago – The first ‘modern’ hand emerges

1.8 million years ago – Homo ergaster begins to appear in the fossil record

800,000 years ago – Early humans controlled fire and created hearths. Brain size increases rapidly

400,000 years agoO – Neanderthals first appear and spread across Europe and Asia

300,000 to 200,000 years ago – Homo sapiens – modern humans – appear in Africa

54,000 to 40,000 years ago – Modern people reach Europe