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Nature. 2015 Oct 29;526(7575):696-9. doi: 10.1038/nature15696. Epub 2015 Oct 14.

The earliest unequivocally modern humans in southern China.

Author information

1
Key Laboratory of Vertebrate Evolution and Human Origins of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100044, China.
2
UCL Anthropology, 14 Taviton Street, London WC1H 0BW, UK.
3
Departamento de Ciencias Históricas y Geografía. University of Burgos. Hospital del Rey, s/n. 09001 Burgos, Spain.
4
Centro Nacional de Investigación sobre la Evolución Humana (CENIEH), Paseo Sierra de Atapuerca 3, 09002 Burgos, Spain.
5
State Key Laboratory of Loess and Quaternary Geology, Institute of Earth Environment, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Xian 710075, China.
6
Paleomagnetic Laboratory 'Fort Hoofddijk', Department of Earth Sciences, Faculty of Geosciences, Utrecht University, Budapestlaan 17, 3584 CD Utrecht, The Netherlands.
7
Faculty of Archaeology, Leiden University, PO Box 9515, 2300 RA Leiden, The Netherlands.
8
School of Archaeology and Museology, Peking University, Beijing 100871, China.
9
Department of Geology and Geophysics, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, Minnesota 55455, USA.
10
Institute of Global Environmental Change, Xi'an Jiaotong University, Xi'an 710049, China.
11
Institute of Cultural Relics and Archaeology, Hunan Province, Changsha 410008, China.
12
Cultural Relics Administration of Daoxian County, Daoxian 425300, China.

Abstract

The hominin record from southern Asia for the early Late Pleistocene epoch is scarce. Well-dated and well-preserved fossils older than ∼45,000 years that can be unequivocally attributed to Homo sapiens are lacking. Here we present evidence from the newly excavated Fuyan Cave in Daoxian (southern China). This site has provided 47 human teeth dated to more than 80,000 years old, and with an inferred maximum age of 120,000 years. The morphological and metric assessment of this sample supports its unequivocal assignment to H. sapiens. The Daoxian sample is more derived than any other anatomically modern humans, resembling middle-to-late Late Pleistocene specimens and even contemporary humans. Our study shows that fully modern morphologies were present in southern China 30,000-70,000 years earlier than in the Levant and Europe. Our data fill a chronological and geographical gap that is relevant for understanding when H. sapiens first appeared in southern Asia. The Daoxian teeth also support the hypothesis that during the same period, southern China was inhabited by more derived populations than central and northern China. This evidence is important for the study of dispersal routes of modern humans. Finally, our results are relevant to exploring the reasons for the relatively late entry of H. sapiens into Europe. Some studies have investigated how the competition with H. sapiens may have caused Neanderthals' extinction (see ref. 8 and references therein). Notably, although fully modern humans were already present in southern China at least as early as ∼80,000 years ago, there is no evidence that they entered Europe before ∼45,000 years ago. This could indicate that H. neanderthalensis was indeed an additional ecological barrier for modern humans, who could only enter Europe when the demise of Neanderthals had already started.

PMID:
26466566
DOI:
10.1038/nature15696
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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