Enigma Man a Stone Age Mystery

Synopsis: This is the story of two scientists who are confronted by their own discovery of mysterious ancient human remains that challenge everything we know about human evolution...
Genre: Documentary
Director(s): Daniella Ortega
57 min


Around 50,000 years ago,

in a prehistoric forest of East Asia,

the first humans arrived from

Africa to live and to hunt.

Just a few thousand individuals

would become the ancestors

of all the people of East Asia,

Australia and the Americas.

This vast land was thought to be empty

when they took their first

steps here but now it appears

they were not alone.

This remote cave in Southwest China

is the final resting place

of strange unknown humans.

Their remains had laid

undisturbed for millennia

until a chance encounter

brought them to light.

Now, we are faced with a

shocking possibility.

We may have unearthed a

new species of human.

In a way, it's the sort of

thing you wouldn't ask for.

What we faced here was a discovery

that challenged everything we understood

about human evolution.

These ancient bones may change forever

our understanding of where we came from

and what makes us human.

On a quiet mountain road in the

Chinese province of Yunnan,

two men from very different

worlds are on a journey

back in time.

Ji Xueping, a Chinese paleontologist

is traveling with Australian


Darren Curnoe.

They're on their way south

to one of the most important

archaeological sites in Asia.

I've wanted to work in

Asia my whole career.

I was at Asia these days where

it's an amazing opportunity.

It's close to Australia that

would help us understand

the origins of indigenous Australians

but also Asia in many ways seem to me to be

like a blank canvas

particularly with the question

of the origins of modern humans.

Asia today has more than half

the world's living population

but yet we know so little

about their origins

and their relationship to people

in other parts of the world.

In 1989, mine workers accidentally

unearthed ancient looking human remains

at this site in Southern Yunnan.

They lay alongside bones of red deer

that once roamed this region.

Locals soon dubbed the site

Maludong, the Red Deer Cave.

The mine's closed and the

mysterious bones were moved

to a nearby museum.

There, they lay buried

in the volts, unstudied

for almost 20 years.

Then in 2007, Ji invited Darren

to help investigate these fossils.

They were unlike any he had ever seen.

They were charred and strange

and included part of a skull

with holes drilled into both sides.

This is the most complete

skull from Maludong

and it's also the one

that has the most events

from modification, alteration by humans.

The entire base of the

skull has been cut off,

chipped away using stone

tools and then they've used

another tool to smooth the edges

and to actually polish it.

To understand what this skull cut means,

they called in an expert

in ancient human habits.

Cultural anthropologist Paul Tacon.

Making of skull cups is a

very modern form of behavior

and the Neanderthals didn't

make skull containers,

all the other known

examples past and present

were made from the skulls of modern humans.

Sometimes, these were made

for use in ceremonies.

They sometimes were made

from the skulls of enemies.

It was a way of insulting your enemy

by drinking from their skull.

Besides purposely shaping

the edge of the skull

to make it into a nice container, two holes

were purposely drilled on either side

but not exactly in the center.

They're drilled close to

the front of the skull

where most of the weight is.

So, the person who fashioned

this was very ingenious.

They figured out that since

there was more weight here,

put the holes closer to it,

it will sit nicely in the

air without spilling.

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Daniella Ortega

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Submitted on August 05, 2018

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