Conny Waters – –The emergence of Homo sapiens in the Eastern Asian region has been a main subject of scholarly investigation. However, a scarcity of well-preserved and accurately dated human fossil remains makes these investigations difficult.

Re-Evaluation Of Dating of the Liujiang skeleton Sheds New Light On Timeline Of Human Occupation In ChinaLocation of Tongtianyan cave (Liujiang) in Guangxi Province, southern China, together with the location of other key fossils of Homo sapiens in China. Frontal view of the Liujiang cranial and postcranial elements. Credit: Nature Communications (2024). DOI: 10.1038/s41467-024-47787-3

The Tongtianyan cave, situated in the Liujiang District of Liuzhou City, Southern China, has been a main site for research. The cave houses one of the most significant fossil discoveries of Homo sapiens. However, the age of the fossils unearthed within this location has been a subject of considerable debate – until the present time.

An international collaborative study, with contributions from Griffith University, has now yielded significant findings regarding the Liujiang human fossils.They updated age estimates and revised provenance information for the fossils, which illuminates the presence of Homo sapiens in the region.

This material sheds light on the presence of Homo sapiens in the region and contributes to a more comprehensive understanding of our species’ origins and dispersal patterns.

The team used sophisticated dating methodologies, including the so-called U-series dating on human fossils, and radiocarbon and optically stimulated luminescence dating on fossil-bearing sediments.

The results unveiled new age estimates ranging from approximately 33,000 to 23,000 years ago. In contrast, previous studies had reported ages of up to 227,000 years for the skeletal remains.

“These revised age estimates align with dates from other human fossils in northern China,” said Professor Michael Petraglia, study co-author and Director of Griffith’s Australian Research Center for Human Evolution.

It suggests a geographically widespread presence of H. sapiens across Eastern Asia after 40,000 years ago.”

According to Dr. Junyi Ge, the lead author of the study and a researcher at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, “this discovery carries profound implications for comprehending human migrations and adaptations within the region. It challenges previously held interpretations and sheds light on the occupation history of China.”

The Liujiang skeletal remains, unearthed in 1958, have been regarded as among the most significant human fossil discoveries in Eastern Asia, holding substantial importance in the field of anthropological research and the study of human evolution.

The exceptional preservation of the cranial, dental, and postcranial remains has helped to conduct extensive biological and morphological comparative analyses across the Eurasian region. These iexaminations have contributed significantly to our understanding of the intricate relationships and evolutionary trajectories within this vast geographical expanse.

“The results of this investigation challenge previously established age estimations and interpretations within the field of paleoanthropology, underscoring the necessity for robust dating methodologies and comprehensive provenance documentation in the study of human evolutionary processes,” summarized Dr. Qingfeng Shao, of the Nanjing Normal University.

The accurate age estimates in advancing our understanding of modern human origins and dispersals, the study shows.

The study, “New Late Pleistocene age for the Homo sapiens skeleton from Liujiang southern China,” has been published in Nature Communications.

Written by Conny Waters – Staff Writer

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