Chinese fossil challenges traditional early-human time line
Published October 25, 2010
The mandible, unearthed by paleontologists in China’s Zhiren Cave in 2007, sports a distinctly modern feature: a prominent chin. But the bone is undeniably 60,000 years older than the next oldest Homo sapiens remains in China, scientists say.
In fact, at about a hundred thousand years old, the Chinese fossil is “the oldest modern human outside of Africa,” said study co-author Erik Trinkaus, an anthropologist at Washington University in St. Louis.
(Also see “Oldest Skeleton of Human Ancestor Found.”)
Popular theory states that Homo sapiens migrated out of Africa about 60,000 years ago, at which point modern humans quickly replaced early human species such asHomo erectus and Homo neanderthalensis across the world.
Finding such an ancient example of a modern human in China would drastically alter the time line of human migration. The find may also mean that modern humans in China were mingling—and possibly even interbreeding—with other human species for 50,000 or 60,000 years. What’s more, the find seems to suggest that anatomically modern humans had arrived in China long before the species began acting human. National Geographic link
The oldest human jawbone from China is described in this week’s issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
October 26, 2010
An international team of researchers based at the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology in Beijing has discovered well-dated human fossils in southern China that markedly change anthropologists perceptions of the emergence of modern humans in the eastern Old World.
The discovery of early modern human fossil remains in the Zhirendong (Zhiren Cave) in south China that are at least 100,000 years old provides the earliest evidence for the emergence of modern humans in eastern Asia, at least 60,000 years older than the previously known modern humans in the region.
“These fossils are helping to redefine our perceptions of modern human emergence in eastern Eurasia, and across the Old World more generally,” says Eric Trinkaus, PhD, the Mary Tileston Hemenway Professor in Arts & Sciences and professor of physical anthropology.
The Zhirendong humans indicate that the spread of modern human biology long preceded the cultural and technological innovations of the Upper Paleolithic and that early modern humans co-existed for many tens of millennia with late archaic humans further north and west across Eurasia.
The research was published Oct. 25 in the online early edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.