Lao skull earliest example of modern human fossil in Southeast Asia

Aug 20, 2012
The researchers found skull fragments that date to 63,000 years ago. Credit: Laura Shackelford

An ancient skull recovered from a cave in the Annamite Mountains in northern Laos is the oldest modern human fossil found in Southeast Asia, researchers report. The discovery pushes back the clock on modern human migration through the region by as much as 20,000 years and indicates that ancient wanderers out of Africa left the coast and inhabited diverse habitats much earlier than previously appreciated.

The team described its finding in a paper in . The scientists, who found the skull in 2009, were likely the first to dig for in Laos since the early 1900s, when a team found skulls and skeletons of several in another cave in the Annamite Mountains. Those fossils were about 16,000 years old, much younger than the newly found skull, which dates to between 46,000 and 63,000 years old.

"It's a particularly old modern human fossil and it's also a particularly old modern human for that region," said University of Illinois Laura Shackelford, who led the study with anthropologist Fabrice Demeter, of the in Paris. "There are other modern human fossils in China or in that may be around the same age but they either are not well dated or they do not show definitively modern human features. This skull is very well dated and shows very conclusive modern human features," she said.

No other artifacts have yet been found with the skull, suggesting that the cave was not a dwelling or , Shackelford said. It is more likely that the person died outside and the body washed into the cave sometime later, she said.

The find reveals that early modern human migrants did not simply follow the coast and go south to the islands of Southeast Asia and Australia, as some researchers have suggested, but that they also traveled north into very different types of terrain, Shackelford said.

"This find supports an 'Out-of-Africa' theory of modern human origins rather than a multi-regionalism model," she said. "Given its age, fossils in this vicinity could be direct ancestors of the first migrants to Australia. But it is also likely that mainland Southeast Asia was a crossroads leading to multiple migratory paths."

The discovery also bolsters genetic studies that indicate that modern humans occupied that part of the world at least 60,000 years ago, she said.

"This is the first fossil evidence that supports the genetic data," she said.

The researchers used radiocarbon dating and luminescence techniques to determine the age of the soil layers above, below and surrounding the skull, which was found nearly 2 1/2 meters (about 8.2 feet) below the surface of the cave.

Researchers at Illinois used uranium/thorium dating to determine the age of the , which they determined was about 63,000 years old.

Research fellow Kira Westaway, of Macquarie University in Australia (who dated the soils around the famous "hobbit" fossil found on Flores Island in Indonesia in 2003), conducted the luminescence analyses. These techniques measure the energy retained in crystalline particles in the soil to determine how much time has elapsed since the soil was last exposed to heat or solar radiation. She found that the layer of soil surrounding the fossil had washed into the cave between 46,000 and 51,000 years ago.

"Those dates are a bit younger than the direct date on the fossil, which we would expect because we don't know how long the body sat outside the cave before it washed in," Shackelford said.

"This fossil find indicates that the migration out of Africa and into East and Southeast Asia occurred at a relatively rapid rate, and that, once there, modern humans weren't limited to environments that they had previously experienced," she said. "We now have the fossil evidence to prove that they were there long before we thought they were there."

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More information: "An Anatomically Modern Human in Southeast Asia (Laos) by 46 ka," PNAS, 2012.

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ubavontuba
1.5 / 5 (8) Aug 20, 2012
From the paper:

The cranium has a derived modern human morphology in features of the frontal, occipital, maxillae, and dentition.


Judging by the apparent low brow, shape of the teeth, and unusual and extreme wear on the teeth, I'm doubtful this is a truly modern human.

I'd like to know what this person ate to cause so much wear.

TheGhostofOtto1923
3.9 / 5 (22) Aug 20, 2012
Judging by the apparent low brow, shape of the teeth, and unusual and extreme wear on the teeth, I'm doubtful this is a truly modern human.
Of course you are. Your appreciation of the kind of knowledge necessary to have truly informed opinions on scientific issues, is akin to that of this religionist:

"[Rep. Todd Akin, R-Mo.] has been under fire since a Sunday interview with KTVI-TV in St. Louis in which he discussed his opposition to abortion rights even in the case of rape, and said a woman's body could prevent pregnancy in the case of "legitimate rape" because "the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down."

-Which is why you tend to vote for this sort of fellow. He does have a divinity degree from a respectable institution so he too must know what he's talking about.
josephinemillersyd
1 / 5 (13) Aug 20, 2012
Slightly off subject Otto although there exist research that rape is highly unlikely to produce sperm and therefore cause pregnancy. It is not a sex act but an act of violence.
As for tuba - food has changed so much. Food tech is an interesting subject.
Torbjorn_Larsson_OM
5 / 5 (8) Aug 20, 2012
@ ubavontuba:

"I'm doubtful this is a truly modern human."

Luckily for the rest of the world, the scientist experts are all unanimous on that this is a modern human, who arose ~ 100 - 200 000 years ago. It is unlikely to be an H. erectus.

The wear caused by the then food is not remarkable, it looks like the usual wear to me, but I'm no expert. Cooking was a late invention (but well before this: http://en.wikiped...y_humans ), and older hominins ate a lot more roots and other greens than we do today as evidenced by isotope analysis of teeth and food remains in between.

If they used the same stone tool techniques as modern hunter-gatherers, the tools were often damaging teeth as well. (Cutting against teeth.)
draa
4.6 / 5 (10) Aug 20, 2012
Slightly off subject Otto although there exist research that rape is highly unlikely to produce sperm and therefore cause pregnancy. It is not a sex act but an act of violence.
As for tuba - food has changed so much. Food tech is an interesting subject.


No matter how many time as you repeat that lie, it still won't make it true. That has been debunked many times and as recently as 5 mins ago. Why do conservatives feel the need to constantly lie just to make their ignorance seem more "mainstream?" It's Dark Age bullshiat.
jsdarkdestruction
3.4 / 5 (5) Aug 21, 2012
Slightly off subject Otto although there exist research that rape is highly unlikely to produce sperm and therefore cause pregnancy. It is not a sex act but an act of violence.
As for tuba - food has changed so much. Food tech is an interesting subject.

how was this study done? thats sounds like total fucking nonsense to me.
MarkyMark
2 / 5 (2) Aug 21, 2012
Slightly off subject Otto although there exist research that rape is highly unlikely to produce sperm and therefore cause pregnancy. It is not a sex act but an act of violence.
As for tuba - food has changed so much. Food tech is an interesting subject.

how was this study done? thats sounds like total fucking nonsense to me.


This is probably rooted in his excuse he gives his Wife and/or children before action.
TheGhostofOtto1923
4.1 / 5 (15) Aug 21, 2012
No matter how many time as you repeat that lie, it still won't make it true. That has been debunked many times and as recently as 5 mins ago. Why do conservatives feel the need to constantly lie just to make their ignorance seem more "mainstream?" It's Dark Age bullshiat.
Naw I think we should see a link.

Where did you get this josephine? You need to provide a reference. Did you hear it from this guy?

"Pro-life doctor John Willke, linked to Akins forcible rape claims, endorsed Romney in 2007

Romney's 2007 campaign embraced Willke as an important surrogate for Governor Romney's pro-life and pro-family agenda.
http://www.nydail....1141021

-There are obviously people in the world like these who think they can reconfigure reality to suit their personal agendas. We NEED to find out who these people are. One may become the next US president.
TheGhostofOtto1923
4.3 / 5 (17) Aug 21, 2012
We may have a president who ascribes to a religion whose founder thought it was ok to redraw egyptian hieroglyphics to prove they depicted abraham and joseph:

"The [book of abraham] was canonized in 1880 by [LDS]...it forms a doctrinal foundation for the LDS Church and Mormon fundamentalist denominations of the Latter Day Saint movement."
http://en.wikiped..._Abraham

-Smith 'translated' egyptian texts before hieroglyphics could be read. Egyptologists now tell us that his 'translations' were complete and utter bullshit.

Smith FORGED this crap and redrew glyphs as a direct attempt to DECEIVE people. And our republican candidate for president of the most powerful country in the world, believes smith was a PROPHET of god.

What other bullshit would he have us believe? That smith appeared to him in his oval office and told him to bomb amsterdam? Or that women who cannot wish their unwanted pregnancies away must really WANT them and so who needs abortion OR contraception?
TheGhostofOtto1923
4.3 / 5 (17) Aug 21, 2012
"I used the wrong words in the wrong way...The mistake I made was in the words I said, not in the heart I hold..." Todd akin

-No the mistake you made was in disclosing your profound ignorance, and the manner in which it colors your views of reality.

Religionists should NOT hold public office. They will inevitably conflate superstition and reality.
Deathclock
5 / 5 (4) Aug 21, 2012
Slightly off subject Otto although there exist research that rape is highly unlikely to produce sperm and therefore cause pregnancy. It is not a sex act but an act of violence.


You couldn't sound dumber if you tried.
Graeme
5 / 5 (1) Aug 26, 2012
A few thousand years is plenty of time for humans to figure out how to travel and live inland. If their means of transport as a log canoe, it could be also used to travel up rivers.