Researchers at Washington University in St. Louis 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 result will be published in the Proceedings of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences on April 3.
Erik Trinkaus, Professor of Anthropology at Washington University in St. Louis, 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 specimen is basically a modern human, but it does have a few archaic characteristics, particularly in the teeth and hand bone. 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.”