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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1996 Apr 2;93(7):3016-20.

Dated co-occurrence of Homo erectus and Gigantopithecus from Tham Khuyen Cave, Vietnam.

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  • 1Department of Anthroplogy, The University of Iowa, Iowa City 52242, USA.


Tham Khuyen Cave (Lang Son Province, northern Vietnam) is one of the more significant sites to yield fossil vertebrates in east Asia. During the mid-1960s, excavation in a suite of deposits produced important hominoid dental remains of middle Pleistocene age. We undertake more rigorous analyses of these sediments to understand the fluvial dynamics of Pleistocene cave infilling as they determine how skeletal elements accumulate within Tham Khuyen and other east Asian sites. Uranium/thorium series analysis of speleothems brackets the Pleistocene chronology for breaching, infilling, and exhuming the regional paleokarst. Clast analysis indicates sedimentary constituents, including hominoid teeth and cranial fragments accumulated from very short distances and under low fluvial energy. Electron spin resonance analysis of vertebrate tooth enamel and sediments shows that the main fossil-bearing suite (S1-S3) was deposited about 475 thousand years ago. Among the hominoid teeth excavated from S1-S3, some represent Homo erectus and Gigantopithecus blacki. Criteria are defined to differentiate these teeth from more numerous Pongo pygmaeus elements. The dated co-occurrence of Homo erectus and Gigantopithecus blacki at Tham Khuyen helps to establish the long co-existence of these two species throughout east Asia during the Early and Middle Pleistocene.

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