China's earliest modern human

April 2, 2007
China's earliest modern human
A mandible from a 40,000-year-old early modern human skeleton found in China and being studied by Erik Trinkaus Ph.D., the Mary Tileston Hemenway Professor of anthropology in Arts & Sciences.

Researchers at WUSTL and the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology (IVPP) in Beijing have been studying a 40,000-year-old early modern human skeleton found in China and have determined that the "out of Africa" dispersal of modern humans may not have been as simple as once thought. The research was published in the Proceedings of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences on April 3.

Erik Trinkaus, Ph.D., the Mary Tileston Hemenway Professor of anthropology in Arts & Sciences, his colleague Hong Shang, and others at the IVPP examined the skeleton, recovered in 2003 from the Tianyuan Cave, Zhoukoudian, near Beijing City.

The skeleton dates to 42,000 to 38,500 years ago, making it the oldest securely dated modern human skeleton in China and one of the oldest modern human fossils in eastern Eurasia.

The find could help explain how early man moved across Europe and Asia towards the East, a movement that is not completely understood by anthropologists.

The "Out of Africa" theory proposes that modern humans evolved in Africa and then spread throughout the earth somewhere around 70,000 years ago, replacing earlier humans with little or no interbreeding.

The specimen is basically a modern human, but it does have a few archaic characteristics, particularly in the teeth and hand bone. According to Trinkaus, this morphological pattern implies that a simple spread of modern humans from Africa is unlikely, especially since younger specimens have been found in Eastern Eurasia with similar feature patterns.

According to Trinkaus and Shang, "the discovery promises to provide relevant paleontological data for our understanding of the emergence of modern humans in eastern Asia."

They argue that the most likely explanation for the mix of features is interbreeding between early modern humans and the archaic populations of Europe and Asia.

Source: WUSTL

Explore further: Late Minoan tombs points way to early European migration

Related Stories

Late Minoan tombs points way to early European migration

March 31, 2017

Researchers at the University of Huddersfield have visited Rethymnon in Crete, to collect samples from the late Bronze Age Necropolis of Armenoi, one of the world's finest archaeological sites. DNA analysis of the ancient ...

What does it mean to be human?

March 7, 2017

The Rock of Gibraltar appears out of the plane window as an immense limestone monolith sharply rearing up from the base of Spain into the Mediterranean. One of the ancient Pillars of Hercules, it marked the end of the Earth ...

Extinct tortoise yields oldest tropical DNA

February 15, 2017

An extinct tortoise species that accidentally tumbled into a water-filled limestone sinkhole in the Bahamas about 1,000 years ago has finally made its way out, with much of its DNA intact.

A new perspective on the European colonization of Asia

March 20, 2017

In the past, researchers have paid limited attention to this fact, which has led to a dearth of modern anthropological, historical and archaeological investigations as well as insights regarding this period of proto-globilisation ...

Recommended for you

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.