Posted by: Craig Woolheater on June 21st, 2014
This article is about a documentary called “Enigma Man” that is about the “Red Deer Cave People” whose remains were found in a remote cave in South-west China and may have existed alongside our ancestors as recently as 11,000 – 14,000 years ago.
Enigma Man: A figure based on the remains found in a remote cave in South West China.
‘Enigma Man’ may be new human species that lived until 11,000 years ago
Fresh light on China’s Red Deer Cave People raises big questions.
Has an Australian scientist been instrumental in helping discover a new species of human? And what does this mean for our understanding of human evolutionary history? These are two questions at the heart of a new documentary screening this week on ABC1.
With Enigma Man we follow the groundbreaking research of Aussie paleoanthropologist Darren Curnoe and his Chinese colleague, paleontologist Ji Xueping.
Their study of ancient human remains found in a remote cave in South-west China looks at the idea there may have been another species of human existing alongside our ancestors as recently as 11,000 – 14,000 years ago.
Dubbed the ‘‘Red Deer Cave people’’, these ancient people, or, more precisely, their remains – so similar, yet so physically different from us – are much, much younger than our Neanderthal relatives, posing some seriously interesting questions. Were they really another human species? And if so, what happened to them? Why did they die out? How did they live? And what were their interactions with our own early relatives?
These are indeed big questions, Curnoe says, and that’s what makes the search for answers so fascinating.
“The documentary is about the process of deciding: do we have a new species or not?” Curnoe, who is Associate Professor of evolutionary biology in the School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences at UNSW, explains.
“The fossils just don’t fit with the dominant view in science at the moment about who was around 11,000 years ago or 14,000 years ago, how they relate to us, and how we think of ourselves as humans in relation to nature.
“We tend to think of ourselves as special. So it raises some pretty deep and challenging questions.
“There are views, which I subscribe to, and quite a lot of other people do too, that there are at least 30 different species that are in the fossil record that would be relatives of ours in some sense – some may be ancestors, some may be side-branches that went extinct.
“The classic example is the Neanderthals – everyone has heard of them, even if you don’t know much about them. What we are proposing is that instead of the Neanderthals being the last of the other human-like creatures [before it was] just us, we are in fact saying, well, no, this other group survived until much more recently.”
Co-founder of Cryptomundo in 2005. I have appeared in or contributed to the following TV programs, documentaries and films: OLN's Mysterious Encounters: "Caddo Critter", Southern Fried Bigfoot, Travel Channel's Weird Travels: "Bigfoot", History Channel's MonsterQuest: "Swamp Stalker", The Wild Man of the Navidad Destination America's Monsters and Mysteries in America: Texas Terror - Lake Worth Monster, Animal Planet's Finding Bigfoot: Return to Boggy Creek and Beast of the Bayou.