Dragon Man from China

Dragon Man’s message to the world is “I got brain”.

His name comes from Heilongjiang – Black Dragon River.  This is the name of the province in northern China where the skull was found beside the Songhua River near Harbin.

The face of the man whose body this skull belonged to had deep-set eyes below massively heavy browridges.  His forehead was low, his skull long extending out at the back, and very robust with reinforced bones.  These primitive features combined with some more modern features such as delicate cheek bones and a flatter face due to reduction in the size of the jaw.  His nose was wide and teeth fairly large.

The skull is dated to between 309 000 and 138 000 years old.

The big surprise is that the cranial capacity of this skull is 1420 cc.  This is slightly above the modern average Homo sapiens size and definitely in the top range for a man of this time period.

What immediately strikes you is that this Dragon Man skull is remarkably similar to skulls classified as Homo heidelbergensis from Africa and Europe that mainly date from between 400 000 and 250 000 years ago.

For comparison take a look at these Homo heidelbergensis skulls:

Prehistoric skulls found in China:

  • The seven skulls found at Zhoukoudian Cave near Beijing / Peking – Peking Man have cranial capacities of 850 to 1225 cc and date from 500 000 to 400 000 years
  • The Dali skull found in Shaanxi Province has a cranial capacity of 1120 to 1200 cc and dates to between 250 000 – 128 000 years

Prehistoric skulls found in Europe:

  • Arago 21 found at Tautavel, France has a cranial capacity of 1100 to 1200 cc and dates to between 400 000 and 250 000 years
  • Petralona 1 from Greece has a cranial capacity of 1230 cc and dates to between 400 000 and 350 000 years
  • Three skulls from Sima de los Huesos, Atapuerca, Spain have cranial capacities of 1125, 1220 and 1390 cc and date to 300 000 years

Prehistoric skulls found in Africa:

  • The Bodo skull from Ethiopia has a cranial capacity of 1250 cc and dates to 600 000 years
  • The Ndutu skull from Lake Ndutu, Tanzania has a cranial capacity of 1070 to 1120 cc and dates from 400 000 to 350 000 years
  • The Kabwe skull from Broken Hill, Zambia / Rhodesia – Rhodesia Man has a cranial capacity of 1300 cc and dates from between 324 000 and 274 000 years

The average cranial capacity for Homo heidelbergensis was 1200 cc.  The range, however, could extend from 1000 cc to 1400 cc.  The difference between male and female cranial capacity within a type can be as much as 195 cc.

Thus, you can see that the top of the range cranial capacity of the precursor type of human was equal to the average of the succeeding type.  1400 cc was the maximum for Homo heidelbergensis, but average for Homo sapiens.  Likewise, the upper limit for cranial capacity in Homo erectus was 1200 cc, and this was equal to the average size for Homo heidelbergensis.

Thus, Dragon Man fits perfectly into a category labelled Homo heidelbergensis who lived in Africa, Europe and northern Asia.  The features of this type are intermediate between Homo erectus and Homo sapiens.  The former label for this type was ‘Archaic Homo sapiens’.

There is a temptation to place every new find in a separate species eg. Homo daliensis – Dali Man, and now Homo longi which means Dragon Man.  But then the human tree becomes a bush, and you can argue forever about every twig belonging to this bush, and ‘not see the wood for the trees’.  What is needed is clarity.

I refer to Homo heidelbergensis as Precursor Man (Homo praecursor) as this globally distributed early type gave rise to Contemporary Man (Homo aequalis) in the three main geographic regions of the world.  I have a problem with the label ‘Homo sapiens’ as if mind jumped into existence 100 000 years ago, as I believe that all forms of mankind have been both intelligent and fully human through prehistory.  Dragon Man had a good sized brain which he used for thinking like a human.