Chinese anthropologists have been saying for decades that the Han are direct descendants of Homo erectus. Western anthropologists, most famously Dr. Alice Roberts, have challenged that assumption.
From Page 4, Subspecieiest.com, FAQs:
In the highly acclaimed 2013 documentary “The Incredible Journey,” Alice Roberts confronted Dr. Wu in the BBC documentary: “Professor Wu… I’m a complete novice… but I look at this modern skull here, this 30,000 year old skull from Zhuokoudian, and this looks quite similar to me to other skulls from Europe.” (BBC, 40 min. mark).
The famous Dali skull from China’s Shaanxi province has since been reanalyzed, strongly suggesting a continuum from Homo erectus to modern Han Chinese, (Newsweek, Nov 2017).
Svante Pääbo seemed to agree with the Chinese and added an intriguing possibility; Denisovan and Homo erectus hybrid:
“There is some interesting indication in the Denisovan genome. They have an old component in their genome that is not there in Neanderthals. It seems to come in more than a million years from something that diverged from the human lineage. It’s very tempting to say that’s a Homo erectus type thing or something like that.”
From Sci-News.com, July 10,
Modern Asians Acquired Rare Dental Trait from Denisovans: Study
A new analysis of the so-called Xiahe mandible, a 160,000-year-old fossilized Denisovan jawbone from Baishiya Karst Cave, the Tibetan Plateau, China, points to a different evolutionary path.
According to Sci-News, the 3-root trait is rare, only 3.5% in non-Asians, but up to 40% in the Chinese.
Now a prominent New York based Anthropologist is leaning towards the Paabo and Chinese anthropology line.
From NYU’s press release, July 8,
Ancient Molar Points to Interbreeding Between Archaic Humans and Homo Sapiens in Asia
“In Asia, there have long been claims for continuity between archaic and modern humans because of some shared traits,” observes [Shara] Bailey. “But many of those traits are primitive or are not unique to Asians. However, the three-rooted lower molar trait is unique to Asian groups. Its presence in a 160,000-year-old archaic human in Asia strongly suggests the trait was transferred to H. sapiens in the region through interbreeding with archaic humans in Asia.” [Emphasis added]