Modern humans emerged far earlier than previously thought

Oct 25, 2010
Fig. 1. The human remains from Zhiren Cave. The Zhiren 3 mandible in anterior (A), lateral left (B), and superior (C) views. The midsymphyseal cross-section of the Zhiren 3 mandible (D). The Zhiren 1M3 in buccal and mesial views (E), and the Zhiren 2 M3 in the same views (F). (Scale bar, 5 cm.) (Courtesy of Drs. LIU Wu and JIN Chang-Zhu)

(PhysOrg.com) -- An international team of researchers based at the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology in Beijing, including a physical anthropology professor at Washington University in St. Louis, 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 research was published Oct. 25 in the online early edition of the .

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 fossils have a mixture of modern and archaic features that contrasts with earlier modern humans in east Africa and southwest Asia, indicating some degree of human population continuity in Asia with the emergence of modern humans.

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 co-existed for many tens of millennia with late archaic humans further north and west across Eurasia.

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Caliban
3.8 / 5 (4) Oct 25, 2010
I wonder how they were able to make the distinction between a modern/archaic hybrid, as opposed to an "intermediate" evolutionary type of Homo.

In any case, the true antiquity and distribution of modern man is likely to be much greater than the the established consensus allows for, and keeps getting pushed further and further back with new findings, with new evidence for the populating of the New World, much earlier than supposed urban settlement, plant domestication, et c. coming to light on a regular basis.

Sites such as Caral, Gobelka Tepe, the ruins atop which Johannesberg is built, the Topper site in S. Carolina, new revelations about Aboriginal settlement of Australia and a newly discovered culture in the Caucasus- all add up to an imminent rewrite of much of Prehistory.
Gary7
4.5 / 5 (6) Oct 25, 2010
Doesn't this information conflict with the mitochondrial DNA evidence showing that modern humans emerged from Africa within the last 60k to 80k years ago?
luhai
4 / 5 (2) Oct 25, 2010
Perhaps it's just another human cousin that didn't make it; Just like the Neanderthals, which is quite modern compared to ealier apes.
tigger
3 / 5 (4) Oct 25, 2010
They found fossils that are more than 6,000 years old... oh my goodness, wow, that's amazement!
mlange
4 / 5 (2) Oct 25, 2010
I wonder how they were able to make the distinction between a modern/archaic hybrid, as opposed to an "intermediate" evolutionary type of Homo.


I can tell usually by their level of cleanliness. The homos in the west village are a bit more modern then say the San Fran hippe homos.

I kid, but wow, quite interesting.
gopher65
5 / 5 (5) Oct 25, 2010
Gary7: Mitochondria are passed on through the female line. If there is evidence that all humans are linked to a single female ancestor 80k years ago, all that means is that there was a bottleneck in the human population.
Gary7
2.5 / 5 (2) Oct 25, 2010
gopher65: Wasn't there a volcanic eruption around that time frame that drastically reduced the human population?
Caliban
2.5 / 5 (2) Oct 26, 2010
gopher65: Wasn't there a volcanic eruption around that time frame that drastically reduced the human population?


@gary7,

Yeah, but that doesn't preclude(necessarily) the survival of a second(or even third) lineage. It's all evidence-based -enntirely dependent upon findings in the field, which will change our understanding, as new findings become part of the record.

I'm not saying that the record is entirely incorrect -but I think that it must remain open to the findings, which will likely change over as we dig deeper into the past of human antiquity.

kevinrtrs
1.6 / 5 (10) Oct 26, 2010
It's a pity they do not state how these fossils were dated. I still think that it should be compulsory that all such fossils be dated by C14 methods to really check up on the other dating methods used.
Unfortunately the article isn't available for reading at the PNAS.At least not without registration/subscription. Maybe I just don't know how to access it.
kevinrtrs
1.4 / 5 (10) Oct 26, 2010
Mmmmhhhh, they used MS/U-series dating on it. But without using a double-check C14 as well. This is of course the trend where there is a bias towards "my fossil is older than yours".
The overwhelming trend is to try and ignore the presence of C-14 in everything, claiming that it's contaminated by modern carbon 14. This allows a convenient escape hatch from the problem of having to deal with an age of less than 10 000 years as normally indicated by the C14 content.
So the age is determined more by what one wants it to be rather that what the evidence represents.
Skultch
5 / 5 (5) Oct 26, 2010
Hey kev, how do YOU explain the fact that we can't see geological layers building up by about 18-20 inches per year? Wouldn't that be a necessity if our planet were as young as you suggest? Where did oil come from? I anxiously await your illogical and/or convoluted answers.
Skeptic_Heretic
5 / 5 (5) Oct 27, 2010
Mmmmhhhh, they used MS/U-series dating on it. But without using a double-check C14 as well.
I'd recommend you read a book on radiometric dating, but you'd probably jsut try to color it in with crayons.
So the age is determined more by what one wants it to be rather that what the evidence represents.
Yeah, it's determined by multiple methods of dating including stratic, radiometric, and contemporary flora and fauna comparison. Usually when multiple methods reach the same conclusion, the basis for that conclusion is considered "supported by evidence". Do you have any sources for your little belief system outside of the stories from your youth?

Thought not.

BrianH
not rated yet Oct 28, 2010
Doesn't this information conflict with the mitochondrial DNA evidence showing that modern humans emerged from Africa within the last 60k to 80k years ago?

Solution: the first h.sap. arrivals ate all the homo erectus etc. they found there. The second wave out of Africa ate all the first wave, leaving no inheritors of their mitochondria.

There! All fiksed!
:)
BrianH
5 / 5 (1) Oct 28, 2010
But don't forget the Hobbits! Some of them escaped to Flores Island.
jsa09
4.5 / 5 (2) Oct 31, 2010
@Brian: You are basically correct except the successive waves don't actually have to eat or even kill previous waves.

All they have to do is have more kids faster. Natural attrition may then solve the problem of who becomes the mitochondrial eve.
getgoa
1 / 5 (2) Nov 01, 2010
This article is very alarming, showing and proving that people are from Asia rather than Africa is nothing short of astonishing. Previous articles say the lesser forms are from Asia that our descendents came from.

The other clues in history are not so subtle and much more controversial if people begin to doubt the proof as set in this article.