- Jul 11, 2018 at 11:28 pm #3546463
Scientists say they’ve found the earliest known evidence of a human presence outside Africa.
BBC News : Paul Rincon : Science and Environment : 12 July 2018
Stone tools discovered in China suggest primitive humans – or a close relative – were in the region as early as 2.12 million years ago. They are about 270,000 years older than the previous earliest evidence, which consists of bones and tools from Dmanisi in Georgia. The research, by a Chinese-British team, appears in the journal Nature.
The stone artefacts were discovered at Shangchen on a plateau in northern China. They comprise different types of stone tools constructed for a variety of purposes. All show signs of having been used. Most were made of quartzite and quartz rock that probably came from the foothills of the Qinling Mountains, five to 10 km to the south of the dig site. But we don’t know for sure which species of human relative made them.
Why does it matter? …
What prompted humans to leave Africa? …
Could we find even earlier evidence outside Africa? …
Did climate change have a role in this? …
Does this have anything to do with the Indonesian “Hobbit”? …
Source paper in Nature:
Hominin occupation of the Chinese Loess Plateau since about 2.1 million years ago
Zhaoyu Zhu, Robin Dennell, Weiwen Huang, Yi Wu, Shifan Qiu, Shixia Yang, Zhiguo Rao, Yamei Hou, Jiubing Xie, Jiangwei Han & Tingping Ouyang.
Fig. 4 | Selected artefacts found in situ in layers S27–L28 (2.09–2.12 Ma), L27 (1.95–2.09 Ma), L25 (1.73–1.80 Ma) and S23 (1.59–1.65 Ma) from the Shangchen Palaeolithic locality.Jul 12, 2018 at 12:19 pm #3546515
I’d really like to build up a better understanding of the human settlement of Asia between these very early discoveries and more recent times, up to and including the near (global) extinction event of 67 or 70 thousand years ago, which supposedly reduced Earth’s population to about 2,000 (according to genetic research). I have no problem with the date of the first human presence (in Asia) being pushed back further and further, though the evidence is scanty. On the evidence of the technology of a single adz (IIRC), there has been previous speculation of human presence on the Korean Peninsula (maybe 20 miles north of here, at Jeongok) of about 350,000 years ago. It now starts to look more feasible. Paleolithic times fascinate me. These people must have been extremely hardy; the winters here are viciously cold.
Northern style, Gochang.Southern style, Hwasoon.
More recently, there were Neolithic settlements of two kinds here, the dolmen builders, of the Northern and Southern style. Korea has many dolmen; though the ancestors of modern Koreans may have displaced (eliminated) those people, rather than assimilated them. The Southern dolmen builders arrived by boat from SE Asia, maybe around Taiwan (?); the Northern arrived overland from Mongolia or eastern Russia, I think, possibly eastern China. There are even ties between the later tomb builders of southeastern Korea and Japan, e.g. the keyhole style mounds, as in Saitobaru, Kyushu, and throughout Japan. Some of the burial practices included entombing the dead in huge earthen jars.
Gwangju National Museum, Gwangju
Jar coffin from Yongdam-dong site
Jeju Island as a Case Study in Ancient Island-Mainland Interaction
Barbara Seyock, Bulletin of the Society for East Asian Archaeology Vol. 2 (2008)
Jul 30, 2018 at 9:01 am #3548980
- This reply was modified 4 months, 1 week ago by Robert Meurant.
I’m still trying to get my (scorched) mind around this. Maybe Wisner knows something about it. If I understand it correctly, primitive humans occupied Asia as long ago as over 2 million years. But I presume that the experts presume that each of the various occupations eventually went extinct, until the descendants of the most recent wave of settlement from out of Africa only 60 or 70 thousand years ago resulted in the present occupants (plus assorted expats).
But this thesis just doesn’t seem feasible to me. I would expect successive waves of immigrants (over 2 million years) to mate with those already here; in some places the invaders would assimilate the already established; in others, the reverse would occur. Inevitably sometimes there would be, I guess, near extinction of whatever population was here (all of Asia), but not inevitably, for each wave, until the most recent, surely?
The invaders at any time might well have had the advantage of new technology, but the established would have the advantages of local knowledge, there must have been long established communities, with thousand year communal memories, surely. Or does that only happen with neolithic times? But in the paleolithic, they could pass on the sophisticated knowledge of stone tool making, over millions of years; and simply to migrate from Africa to Asia would demand tremendous skill and technology, primitive though it might be.
And I vaguely recall Polynesian voyagers only date back 1,500 years at most – they had very elegant technology, as their outriggers confirm – but surely earlier waves of primitive humans had seafaring ability? (I think Australian aboriginals largely crossed land bridges in periods of lower sea level, more land-based than seafaring I presume, coastal at most, but do not know).Aug 16, 2018 at 4:10 am #3551578
I missed this thread when I was away for a couple weeks.
For me the subject is fascinating and it’s amazing what we can discover about the past.
One interesting theory, I read, is that Homo sapiens evolved as an aggressive species because of all the large carnivores in Africa. During the Out of Africa migration they encountered the Homo neanderthalensis throughout Eurasia. Because the Neanderthal did not have the large numbers of carnivores they were much less agressive. They were displaced by Homo sapiens through inter-breeding and aggression.
Perhaps this is why man can be so violent?
I also read somewhere that all peoples throughout the world, except for much of Africa, have trace Neanderthal genes — something like 2%.Aug 16, 2018 at 5:34 am #3551584
Nick, I would highly recommend Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari.
The dolmen are great Robert, especially the second.
I would like to coil and throw my own burial pot, but like a giant Korean onggi.Aug 16, 2018 at 2:36 pm #3551620
Nick, I would highly recommend Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari.
Thanks, Craig, I have heard of it. Only problem is Zuckerberg and Obama recommend it ;-)
However, based on your recommendation, I’ll add it to my list.
Gosh, there is so much to read and learn and so little time (remaining) to do it.Aug 17, 2018 at 1:53 pm #3551733
How China is rewriting the book on human origins
On the outskirts of Beijing, a small limestone mountain named Dragon Bone Hill rises above the surrounding sprawl. Along the northern side, a path leads up to some fenced-off caves that draw 150,000 visitors each year, from schoolchildren to grey-haired pensioners. It was here, in 1929, that researchers discovered a nearly complete ancient skull that they determined was roughly half a million years old. Dubbed Peking Man, it was among the earliest human remains ever uncovered, and it helped to convince many researchers that humanity first evolved in Asia.
Since then, the central importance of Peking Man has faded. Although modern dating methods put the fossil even earlier—at up to 780,000 years old—the specimen has been eclipsed by discoveries in Africa that have yielded much older remains of ancient human relatives. Such finds have cemented Africa’s status as the cradle of humanity—the place from which modern humans and their predecessors spread around the globe—and relegated Asia to a kind of evolutionary cul-de-sac.
But the tale of Peking Man has haunted generations of Chinese researchers, who have struggled to understand its relationship to modern humans. “It’s a story without an ending,” says Wu Xinzhi, a palaeontologist at the Chinese Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology (IVPP) in Beijing. They wonder whether the descendants of Peking Man and fellow members of the species Homo erectus died out or evolved into a more modern species, and whether they contributed to the gene pool of China today.
Keen to get to the bottom of its people’s ancestry, China has in the past decade stepped up its efforts to uncover evidence of early humans across the country. It is reanalysing old fossil finds and pouring tens of millions of dollars a year into excavations. And the government is setting up a US$1.1-million laboratory at the IVPP to extract and sequence ancient DNA.
The investment comes at a time when palaeoanthropologists across the globe are starting to pay more attention to Asian fossils and how they relate to other early hominins—creatures that are more closely related to humans than to chimps. Finds in China and other parts of Asia have made it clear that a dazzling variety of Homo species once roamed the continent. And they are challenging conventional ideas about the evolutionary history of humanity.
“Many Western scientists tend to see Asian fossils and artefacts through the prism of what was happening in Africa and Europe,” says Wu. Those other continents have historically drawn more attention in studies of human evolution because of the antiquity of fossil finds there, and because they are closer to major palaeoanthropology research institutions, he says. “But it’s increasingly clear that many Asian materials cannot fit into the traditional narrative of human evolution.”
Chris Stringer, a palaeoanthropologist at the Natural History Museum in London, agrees. “Asia has been a forgotten continent,” he says. “Its role in human evolution may have been largely under-appreciated.”
In its typical form, the story of Homo sapiens starts in Africa. The exact details vary from one telling to another, but the key characters and events generally remain the same. And the title is always ‘Out of Africa’.
In this standard view of human evolution, H. erectus first evolved there more than 2 million years ago. Then, some time before 600,000 years ago, it gave rise to a new species: Homo heidelbergensis, the oldest remains of which have been found in Ethiopia. About 400,000 years ago, some members of H. heidelbergensis left Africa and split into two branches: one ventured into the Middle East and Europe, where it evolved into Neanderthals; the other went east, where members became Denisovans—a group first discovered in Siberia in 2010. The remaining population of H. heidelbergensis in Africa eventually evolved into our own species, H. sapiens, about 200,000 years ago. Then these early humans expanded their range to Eurasia 60,000 years ago, where they replaced local hominins with a minuscule amount of interbreeding.
A hallmark of H. heidelbergensis—the potential common ancestor of Neanderthals, Denisovans and modern humans—is that individuals have a mixture of primitive and modern features. Like more archaic lineages, H. heidelbergensis has a massive brow ridge and no chin. But it also resembles H. sapiens, with its smaller teeth and bigger braincase. Most researchers have viewed H. heidelbergensis—or something similar—as a transitional form between H. erectus and H. sapiens.
Unfortunately, fossil evidence from this period, the dawn of the human race, is scarce and often ambiguous. It is the least understood episode in human evolution, says Russell Ciochon, a palaeoanthropologist at the University of Iowa in Iowa City. “But it’s central to our understanding of humanity’s ultimate origin.”
The tale is further muddled by Chinese fossils analysed over the past four decades, which cast doubt over the linear progression from African H. erectus to modern humans. They show that, between roughly 900,000 and 125,000 years ago, east Asia was teeming with hominins endowed with features that would place them somewhere between H. erectus and H. sapiens, says Wu.
“Those fossils are a big mystery,” says Ciochon. “They clearly represent more advanced species than H. erectus, but nobody knows what they are because they don’t seem to fit into any categories we know.”
The fossils’ transitional characteristics have prompted researchers such as Stringer to lump them with H. heidelbergensis. Because the oldest of these forms, two skulls uncovered in Yunxian in Hubei province, date back 900,000 years 1, 2, Stringer even suggests that H. heidelbergensis might have originated in Asia and then spread to other continents.
But many researchers, including most Chinese palaeontologists, contend that the materials from China are different from European and African H. heidelbergensis fossils, despite some apparent similarities. One nearly complete skull unearthed at Dali in Shaanxi province and dated to 250,000 years ago, has a bigger braincase, a shorter face and a lower cheekbone than most H. heidelbergensis specimens3, suggesting that the species was more advanced.
Such transitional forms persisted for hundreds of thousands of years in China, until species appeared with such modern traits that some researchers have classified them as H. sapiens. One of the most recent of these is represented by two teeth and a lower jawbone, dating to about 100,000 years ago, unearthed in 2007 by IVPP palaeoanthropologist Liu Wu and his colleagues4. Discovered in Zhirendong, a cave in Guangxi province, the jaw has a classic modern-human appearance, but retains some archaic features of Peking Man, such as a more robust build and a less-protruding chin.
Most Chinese palaeontologists—and a few ardent supporters from the West—think that the transitional fossils are evidence that Peking Man was an ancestor of modern Asian people. In this model, known as multiregionalism or continuity with hybridization, hominins descended from H. erectus in Asia interbred with incoming groups from Africa and other parts of Eurasia, and their progeny gave rise to the ancestors of modern east Asians, says Wu.
Support for this idea also comes from artefacts in China. In Europe and Africa, stone tools changed markedly over time, but hominins in China used the same type of simple stone instruments from about 1.7 million years ago to 10,000 years ago. According to Gao Xing, an archaeologist at the IVPP, this suggests that local hominins evolved continuously, with little influence from outside populations… [more on blog]Aug 17, 2018 at 2:34 pm #3551737
Interesting reading, Robert. Thanks for sharing.Aug 24, 2018 at 10:38 am #3552846
DNA reveals first-known child of Neanderthal and Denisovan, study says
By Ashley Strickland, CNN • August 23, 2018
(CNN)–A 50,000-year-old bone fragment discovered in a Russian cave represents the first-known remains of a child that had a Neanderthal mother and a Denisovan father, according to a new study. The study was published Wednesday in the journal Nature.
Neanderthals and Denisovans, the closest extinct relatives of modern human, are hominins that separated from each other more than 390,000 years ago. But separation doesn’t mean they didn’t encounter each other.
“We knew from previous studies that Neandertals and Denisovans must have occasionally had children together,” Viviane Slon, study author and researcher at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, said in a statement. “But I never thought we would be so lucky as to find an actual offspring of the two groups.”
The long bone, which belonged to a 13-year-old female, was discovered in 2012 in Denisova Cave. The cave, in Siberia’s Altai Mountains, is where other Denisovan and Neanderthal bones have been recovered. Researchers were able to sequence the genome of Denisova 11, who died more than 50,000 years ago. Then, they discovered that she was a first-generation Neanderthal-Denisovan offspring, with equal contributions from both.
“An interesting aspect of this genome is that it allows us to learn things about two populations — the Neandertals from the mother’s side, and the Denisovans from the father’s side,” study co-author Fabrizio Mafessoni of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology said in a statement…
This suggests that Neanderthals were migrating back and forth across Eurasia tens of thousands of years before they disappeared. Meanwhile, the Denisovan father actually had a Neanderthal ancestor farther back in his family tree. “So from this single genome, we are able to detect multiple instances of interactions between Neandertals and Denisovans,” Benjamin Vernot, study co-author with the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, said in a statement.
Even with these encounters between the two groups, Neanderthals and Denisovans were able to remain genetically distinct because of their limited interactions, the researchers said. “It is striking that we find this Neandertal/Denisovan child among the handful of ancient individuals whose genomes have been sequenced,” Svante Pääbo, lead author of the study and director of the Department of Evolutionary Genetics at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, said in a statement. “Neandertals and Denisovans may not have had many opportunities to meet. But when they did, they must have mated frequently — much more so than we previously thought.”
The genome of the offspring of a Neanderthal mother and a Denisovan father
https://www.nature.com/articles/s41586-018-0455-x.epdfAug 25, 2018 at 1:43 am #3552935
Interesting, thanks for sharing. I enjoy imagining what this planet would’ve looked like with multiple types of hominins inhabiting it at once.
Talk about something not taught in school; very few of my students (or people I speak to period) understand that early homo branches overlapped. There’s always the mistaken assumption it was purely linear with only one homo at a time, culminating in us.Aug 25, 2018 at 1:59 am #3552936
With pretty continuous northern European ancestry, I remain convinced I also have a good deal of Neandertal DNA. My supraorbital torus is pretty pronounced. I’d love to be tested. It would be nice if scholarships were available for Sapiens with more than 10% Neandertal DNA ; )
Before I committed to art I was an anthropology major (spent 7 years in undergrad, switched majors 3/4 through an anthro degree…Looking back I should’ve just done both but I was young and impulsive).Aug 25, 2018 at 2:04 am #3552937
We have that in common, I spent way too many years in diverse undergraduate disciplines, before stabilizing –
science > architecture > social sciences > education > drop-out > architecture.Aug 26, 2018 at 9:00 am #3553090
Human evolution in faces. Skin color in H. erectus and H. Heidelbergensis is speculative.Aug 26, 2018 at 9:15 am #3553091
Homo erectus.Aug 26, 2018 at 9:50 am #3553092
Denisovan (?)Aug 26, 2018 at 1:29 pm #3553113
Neandertal reconstruction…Aug 27, 2018 at 2:23 am #3553257
Tom KBPL Member
Wes Studi as Magwa in “The Last of the Mohicans”Aug 27, 2018 at 7:45 am #3553281
Reconstructions of our hominid ancestors created by John Gurche that now reside in the Smithsonian’s Hall of Human Origins.Aug 27, 2018 at 11:05 am #3553286
Reconstruction of Jōmon man (Japan) by Reiko Ishii.Aug 27, 2018 at 11:11 am #3553287
Ancient Jōmon man. The Jōmon ethnic group inhabited the Japanese islands before the Present ethnic group moved in. They appear more Caucasian than the present Japanese.Aug 27, 2018 at 11:19 am #3553288
Forensic facial reconstruction of Homo erectus pekinensisAug 27, 2018 at 11:29 am #3553289
Wikiwand: Peking Man
Peking Man (Chinese: 北京猿人; pinyin: Běijīng Yuánrén), Homo erectus pekinensis (formerly known by the junior synonym Sinanthropus pekinensis), is an example of Homo erectus. Discovered in 1923–27 during excavations at Zhoukoudian (Chou K’ou-tien) near Beijing (written “Peking” before the adoption of the Pinyin romanization system), China, in 2009 this group of fossil specimens dated from roughly 750,000 years ago, and a new 26Al/10Be dating suggests they are in the range of 680,000–780,000 years old…
Most of the study on these fossils was done by Davidson Black until his death in 1934. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin took over until Franz Weidenreich replaced him and studied the fossils until he left China in 1941. The original fossils disappeared in 1941, but excellent casts and descriptions remain…
The first specimens of Homo erectus had been found in Java in 1891 by Eugene Dubois, but were dismissed by many as the remains of a deformed ape. The discovery of the great quantity of finds at Zhoukoudian put this to rest and Java Man, who had initially been named Pithecanthropus erectus, was transferred to the genus Homo along with Peking Man.
Contiguous findings of animal remains and evidence of fire and tool usage, as well as the manufacturing of tools, were used to support H. erectus being the first “faber” or tool-worker. The analysis of the remains of “Peking Man” led to the claim that the Zhoukoudian and Java fossils were examples of the same broad stage of human evolution.
This interpretation was challenged in 1985 by Lewis Binford, who claimed that Peking Man was a scavenger, not a hunter.
Following the discovery of specimens of Lantian Man starting in 1963, that was added to the genus as Sinanthropus lantianensis. The next year Lantian man was reclassified as a subspecies of Homo erectus. The genus Sinanthropus is disused.
Relation to modern humans
Franz Weidenreich (1873 – 1948) considered Peking Man as a human ancestor and specifically an ancestor of the Chinese people, as seen in his original multiregional model of human evolution in 1946. Chinese writings on human evolution in 1950 generally considered evidence insufficient to determine whether Peking Man was ancestral to modern humans. One view was that Peking Man in some ways resembled modern Europeans more than modern Asians, but this debate of the origin has sometimes become complicated by issues of Chinese nationalism according to Barry Sautman. By 1952 Peking Man was considered by some to be a direct ancestor of modern humans. Some paleontologists have noted a perceived continuity in skeletal remainsAug 27, 2018 at 3:51 pm #3553322
Definitely a couple of “cavemen,” perhaps Neanderthal?Aug 27, 2018 at 3:54 pm #3553324
Jerry AdamsBPL Member
@retiredjerryLocale: Oregon and Washington
I was going to say Homo erectus pekinensis looks a lot like Nick : )Aug 28, 2018 at 3:27 am #3553458
Interesting you mention Jomon man. I was really influenced by Jomon pottery, especially figures.
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