Researchers have discovered the oldest known human remains in Southeast Asia, a partial human skull dating to at least 40,000 years ago. Excavations at Tam Pa Ling cave in northern Laos produced a dozen pieces from a Stone Age person’s skull, including a skullcap and a lower jaw, anthropologist Laura Shackelford of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign reported April 14. Small front teeth, a rounded brain case and other traits identify the reassembled fossil as a modern Homo sapiens, Shackelford said. The find supports proposals that at least some human migrations out of Africa around 100,000 years ago followed a southern route that led to Southeast Asia.
AbstractWith over half a century of political instability, resulting from armed conflicts, decolonisation and the Cold War, archaeological investigations in Laos have been rare, leaving little more than a blank page in the chapter of Southeast Asia’s prehistory. Recent research has shown that Laos holds a rich prehistoric heritage. In conjunction with the research initiated by J. White who conducted the first professional archaeological survey of northern Laos since decades, we have extended the investigations to the Luang Namtha province. This work allowed us to gather important data about Hoabinhian stone tool assemblages and former cultures. In particular, the archaeological remains and dating from the Ngeubhinh Mouxeu rock-shelter indicate that this mountainous region of Laos has been inhabited over a long period of time that possibly spans as far back as 56,000 ± 3000 BP.
Update (Aug 21): see this newer entry.