Homo sapiens was in China before 100,000 years ago!

09 Sep
This finding consolidates the recent dating of African-like industries of India to c. 96,000 years ago, as well as other previous discoveries from mostly China, and, jointly, they totally out-date not just the ridiculous “60 Ka ago” mantra for the migration out-of-Africa (which we know is dated to c. 125,000 years ago in Arabia and Palestine) but also the previous estimates of c. 80,000 years ago for India (Petraglia 2007).
Guanjung Shen et al., Mass spectrometric U-series dating of Huanglong Cave in Hubei Province, central China: Evidence for early presence of modern humans in eastern Asia. Journal of Human Evolution, 2013. Freely accessible at the time of writing thisLINK [doi:10.1016/j.jhevol.2013.05.002]


Most researchers believe that anatomically modern humans (AMH) first appeared in Africa 160-190 ka ago, and would not have reached eastern Asia until ∼50 ka ago. However, the credibility of these scenarios might have been compromised by a largely inaccurate and compressed chronological framework previously established for hominin fossils found in China. Recently there has been a growing body of evidence indicating the possible presence of AMH in eastern Asia ca. 100 ka ago or even earlier. Here we report high-precision mass spectrometric U-series dating of intercalated flowstone samples from Huanglong Cave, a recently discovered Late Pleistocene hominin site in northern Hubei Province, central China. Systematic excavations there have led to the in situ discovery of seven hominin teeth and dozens of stone and bone artifacts. The U-series dates on localized thin flowstone formations bracket the hominin specimens between 81 and 101 ka, currently the most narrow time span for all AMH beyond 45 ka in China, if the assignment of the hominin teeth to modern Homo sapiens holds. Alternatively this study provides further evidence for the early presence of an AMH morphology in China, through either independent evolution of local archaic populations or their assimilation with incoming AMH. Along with recent dating results for hominin samples from Homo erectus to AMH, a new extended and continuous timeline for Chinese hominin fossils is taking shape, which warrants a reconstruction of human evolution, especially the origins of modern humans in eastern Asia.

The range of dates for the teeth is ample but the oldest one is of 102.1 ± 0.9 Ka ago. Other dates are very close to this one: 99.5 ± 2.2, 99.3 ± 1.6, 96.8 ± 1.0, etc. (see table 1), so there can be little doubt about their accuracy. 
The Huanglong teeth (various views)
Now, how solidly can these teeth be considered to belong to the species Homo sapiens? Very solidly it seems:

The seven hominin teeth from Huanglong Cave have been assigned to AMH
mainly because of their generally more advanced morphology than that of H. erectus and other archaic populations (Liu et al., 2010b),
especially in terms of the crown breath/length index. These teeth also
lack major archaic suprastructural characteristics listed by Bermúdez de Castro (1988)
for eastern Asian mid-Pleistocene hominins, such as “strong tuberculum
linguale (incisors), marked lingual inclination of the buccal face
(incisors and canines), buccal cingulum (canines and molars), wrinkling
(molars), taurodontism (molars), swelling of the buccal faces (molars)”
(Tim Compton, Personal communication). However, in their roots, these
teeth still retain a few archaic features, being more robust and
complicated than those of modern humans (Liu et al., 2010b).

Zhirendong jaw
Let’s not forget that further South in China, in Zhirendong, a “modern” jaw was found and dated to c. 100,000 years ago as well.
As for the so-called “molecular clock”:

The new timeline for human evolution in China is in disagreement with
the molecular clock that posits a late appearance for AMH in eastern
Asia (e.g., Chu et al., 1998).

… too bad for the “clock”, because a clock that doesn’t inform us of time with at least some accuracy is totally useless.

12 responses to “Homo sapiens was in China before 100,000 years ago!

  1. Václav Hrdonka

    September 10, 2013 at 3:32 pm

    There are nearly AMH teeth in Israel 200-400 kYBP, why not in China 100 kYBP?

  2. Daniel de França MTd2

    September 11, 2013 at 2:18 am

    Why certain extremely mTDNA or Y haplotypes are not found if humans interbreed with other Homo species (or subspecies)? For example, the last common ancestor of Neandhertal is like 600ky old, so at least some of those markers should be that old if up 3% of the Eurasian population have that admixture.

  3. Maju

    September 11, 2013 at 9:00 am

    I am unaware that anybody is taken those Palestinian findings seriously. The paper continues being pay per view after all these years, so I can't see the details but I have something clear: that in all the Mediterranean area there are remains in that period of evolved H. ergaster and not yet of H. sapiens (not even in Africa until 190,000 BP), so they are very much suspect of misidentification. Instead in East Asia all we have before the arrival of H. sapiens is H. erectus of the first wave, the differences are much more clear therefore. Additionally this finding is not a isolate but it is supported by a growing pile of other evidence all through Asia.

  4. Maju

    September 11, 2013 at 9:04 am

    One of the reasons is that there are not so many ancient DNA sequences, drift should explain the rest (major lineages tend to take over, minority ones to go extinct, just statistical tendencies). However there is one X-DNA lineage which seems to be (with great certainty) of Neanderthal origin. Again this fits with statistical logic.

  5. tt9j

    September 11, 2013 at 11:41 am

    Dear Maju;Y-haplotype A00 is almost certainly an archaic relic.

  6. Maju

    September 11, 2013 at 12:13 pm

    Yes, I know that, in fact I wrote that myself. What do you mean? I mean my interpretation is that it is, along with other deep-age Y-DNA lineages of West Africa, that they seem to represent an episode of admixture with other Homo species, closely related to H. sapiens but not quite the same. These lineages (very rare in any case) are restricted to West Africa but there may have been another similar admixture event in East or Southern Africa along the other line of migration from the Mid-Upper Nile basin, which is most likely the urheimat of our species.

  7. Unknown

    October 4, 2013 at 1:44 pm

    I love this blog and am bereft to discover that its on the bubble of doom due to Trollage! Questions regarding these Ancient Chinese teeth:Can DNA be extracted from los dientes, or the jaw?I assume there aren't any skulls about to examine…Are you familiar with the South African Anthropologist Neuroscientist Dean Falk? SHe had a great book about cranial endocasts…those Neanderthal brains were very different from us modern humans…

  8. Maju

    October 4, 2013 at 2:16 pm

    Teeth are one of the most used sources of aDNA. Other bones may do. However the success depends on preservation conditions, which are in principle much better in the colder latitudes. That's why Altai "Denisovan" and Neanderthal aDNA was so well preserved for example. There are many remains still to study or re-study (many studies, sadly enough, have been quite cheapskate, resulting in not too clear results). "…those Neanderthal brains were very different from us modern humans"…As far as I understand, this is hotly debated because we really do not know too well how our own brains work, with new data arising every other month. A reason is that our brains are extremely flexible, what results in, for example, blind people recycling their vision areas into other uses, etc. I do think that Neanderthals were somewhat different to us but their most clear differences are physical: heavier, stronger, with shorter legs and forearms. And the results are relative clear in the archaeological record: they tended to use less space for the same geography and they expanded a bit more slowly than we did. This may also be related to the theories about weapon hurling, because even if Neanderthals could obviously hurl weapons, their advantage over us was only in the short distances (excellent wrestlers, sprinters, climbers), posing a major challenge for Sapiens expansion in West Eurasia. After some time (maybe 40 or 50 millennia), this obstacle may have been overcome partly because of ranged fighting and hunting by our kin, which gave us some extra advantage. But maybe also because of dog domestication and other less obvious reasons.

  9. Paranthropus sapiens

    October 7, 2013 at 5:31 am

    ” through either independent evolution of local archaic populations or their assimilation with incoming AMH.”

    I wonder what’s the reasoning/evidence for such conclusions. Why couldn’t there be that it was just from an earlier out of Africa expansion, without assimilation of local erectus/heidelbergensis?

    I can only guess that they hypothesize it would be a good opportunity/mechanism to explain the Denisova shared alleles.

    I can’t really follow much all the news, or even retain old news, but to me seems weird that there would be admixture to the point of assimilation with species as dissimilar as neanderthals or erectus, if even between Homo sapiens of the same continent it can be rather uncommon. Africans are in Africa for a long time and they’re the most structured population, rather than the most uniformly blended. I have the impression that it would make more sense to have “bridges” of earlier archaic sapiens/helmei either absorbing the other-hominin genes or giving new genes to them, and then assimilation of remnants of these earlier sapiens/pre-sapiens, on which higher frequencies of admixed alleles could have happened rather “quickly”. Sort of a “late multiregional evolution,” involving only an archaic sapiens/helmei-like grade, with some initial or sparse admixture events with archaics, but where most of the “racial” local adaptations inherited aren’t so much what we think of racial adaptations (it apparently isn’t even the case with hair and skin color), but mostly these shared genes with neanderthals and archaics, of apparently mostly immunological functions. Some other random stuff as well, but I’m skeptical of the anatomical continuity. To me it often has some eerie resemblance with those afro-supremacist ideas that say that the Mayas and Aztecs were “negroids” based on statues.

    If the human-chimp split was on the earlier end of the estimates, I think it would all make even more sense: earlier moderns could have been already quite essentially modern at the time, so there would be less need for a multiregional-style intercontinental gene swapping and/or convergent selection patterns.

    • Maju

      October 7, 2013 at 6:02 am

      Just Chinese multiregionalist school inertia. I ignored that part altogether because I know that it’s meaningless.

  10. Paranthropus sapiens

    October 7, 2013 at 5:53 am

    I think some recent research concludes that neanderthals had a significantly different pattern of post-natal growth, developing much faster, closer to what seems to have been the case with Homo erectus/ergaster. Besides the apparent pattern of a tendency to split rather than to merge, I think such developmental differences could have acted as a “species barrier”, however incomplete, but still allowing limited admixture, limited due to presumed decreased fitness or even viability of hybrids with “messed” developmental patterns. Neanderthal developmental regulation must have been wiped out from the human lineage, unless a huge set of human genes “over regulate” it, remaining unaffected by such admixture.

    • Maju

      October 7, 2013 at 6:09 am

      No obvious phenotype changes derived from our Neanderthal inheritance. Maybe, I speculate, straight hair? That’s an Eurasian innovation which might have been genetically borrowed from Neanderthals. But there’s nothing certain on this, just a speculation I have.

      Better follow this blog by the moment in its blogspot incarnation, because I have not yet decided to migrate, but rather keep this one as backup… by the moment.


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