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Nature. 2017 Aug 17;548(7667):322-325. doi: 10.1038/nature23452. Epub 2017 Aug 9.

An early modern human presence in Sumatra 73,000-63,000 years ago.

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Department of Environmental Sciences, Faculty of Science and Engineering, Macquarie University, Sydney, New South Wales 2109, Australia.
School of Culture, History, and Languages, ANU College of Asia and the Pacific, Australian National University, Canberra, Australia.
Indonesian Centre for Archaeology, Jl. Raya Condet Pejaten No. 4, Jakarta 12001, Indonesia.
Centre for Archaeological Sciences, School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of Wollongong, Wollongong, New South Wales 2522, Australia.
School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of Queensland, Brisbane, Queensland 4072, Australia.
Place, Evolution and Rock Art Heritage Unit (PERAHU), Griffith University, Gold Coast, Queensland 4222, Australia.
Southern Cross GeoScience, Southern Cross University, Military Road, Lismore, New South Wales 2480, Australia.
Australian Research Centre for Human Evolution, Environmental Futures Research Institute, Griffith University, 170 Kessels Road, Nathan, Queensland 4111, Australia.
Department of Human Evolutionary Biology, Harvard University, 11 Divinity Avenue, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02138, USA.
School of Anthropology and Conservation, University of Kent, Canterbury CT2 7NR, UK.
Department of Human Evolution, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Deutscher Platz 6, Leipzig 04103, Germany.
Department of Earth Sciences, Natural History Museum, Cromwell Road, London SW7 5BD, UK.
School of Geography and the Environment, University of Oxford, Oxford OX1 2JD, UK.
Department of Geology, Naturalis Biodiversity Center, Leiden, The Netherlands.
Department of Archaeology, University of Southampton, Highfield Road, Southampton SO17 1BF, UK.
Geology Study Program, Institut Teknologi Bandung, Java, Indonesia.
Research School of Earth Sciences, Australian National University, Canberra, Australia.


Genetic evidence for anatomically modern humans (AMH) out of Africa before 75 thousand years ago (ka) and in island southeast Asia (ISEA) before 60 ka (93-61 ka) predates accepted archaeological records of occupation in the region. Claims that AMH arrived in ISEA before 60 ka (ref. 4) have been supported only by equivocal or non-skeletal evidence. AMH evidence from this period is rare and lacks robust chronologies owing to a lack of direct dating applications, poor preservation and/or excavation strategies and questionable taxonomic identifications. Lida Ajer is a Sumatran Pleistocene cave with a rich rainforest fauna associated with fossil human teeth. The importance of the site is unclear owing to unsupported taxonomic identification of these fossils and uncertainties regarding the age of the deposit, therefore it is rarely considered in models of human dispersal. Here we reinvestigate Lida Ajer to identify the teeth confidently and establish a robust chronology using an integrated dating approach. Using enamel-dentine junction morphology, enamel thickness and comparative morphology, we show that the teeth are unequivocally AMH. Luminescence and uranium-series techniques applied to bone-bearing sediments and speleothems, and coupled uranium-series and electron spin resonance dating of mammalian teeth, place modern humans in Sumatra between 73 and 63 ka. This age is consistent with biostratigraphic estimations, palaeoclimate and sea-level reconstructions, and genetic evidence for a pre-60 ka arrival of AMH into ISEA. Lida Ajer represents, to our knowledge, the earliest evidence of rainforest occupation by AMH, and underscores the importance of reassessing the timing and environmental context of the dispersal of modern humans out of Africa.

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