The discovery of an early modern human skeleton in China dated to about
40,000 years ago indicates the Out of Africa dispersal theory of modern humans
may not be as simple as previously thought.
The new finding, by researchers at the Institute of Vertebrate Palaeontology
and Palaeoanthropology affiliated to the Chinese Academy of Sciences and
Washington University, is published this week online in the Proceedings of the
National Academy of Sciences.
The researchers examined a skeleton recovered in 2003 from the Tianyuan Cave,
Zhoukoudian, near Beijing. The skeleton dates back 42,000 to 38,500 years,
making it the oldest modern human skeleton from eastern Eurasia, and one of the
oldest modern humans from the region, said the researchers.
Some scientists argue that
Chinese genes originate from an African female, believed to be the
ancestor of human beings who emerged two million years ago. But, the
truth is not that simple, as new evidence shows.
Most of its features match those of modern humans, while a minority of
features is more like late archaic humans.
Based on this finding, the researchers said it is unlikely that a simple
spread of modern humans eastward of Africa occurred, especially because slightly
younger skeletons have been found in eastern Eurasia with similar mixes of
The researchers said the Tianyuan skeleton also provides data on many aspects
of its biology and will be useful for reconstructing the transition from archaic
to modern humans in eastern Eurasia.
(China Daily 04/03/2007 page1)