15 March 2012

Not Out of Africa? A Question of Origins

[A] distinctive skull...was unearthed in 1979 in Longlin cave, Guangxi Province, but has only now been fully analysed. It has thick bones, prominent brow ridges, a short flat face and lacks a typically human chin. "In short, it is anatomically unique among all members of the human evolutionary tree," says Darren Curnoe at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia.

The skull, he says, presents an unusual mosaic of primitive features like those seen in our ancestors hundreds of thousands of years ago, with some modern traits similar to living people. _New Scientist
Original scientific report at PLoS

More from National Geographic
Artist's Conception of "Red Deer Human" from Longlin Cave in China

The anthropologist Dienekes suggests that these findings of relatively recent archaic humans in China rules out China as the origin of the first modern humans. Dienekes uses similar reasoning to rule out subSaharan Africa and Europe as birthplaces of modern humans.

Dienekes' basic idea is that if modern humans had originated in China, Europe, or subSaharan Africa, that archaic humans would have been replaced by modern humans there, much earlier than was apparently the case. By a process of elimination, Dienekes proposes either extreme northern Africa or Arabia as the original birthplace of modern humans. From there, homo sapiens would have dispersed in all directions, displacing archaic humans as they went.

Discussion of Pre-Sapiens Discoveries in Dmanisi, Georgia

The question of the origins of modern humans is an intriguing and controversial topic. The "Out of Africa" theory has been so deeply engrained into the political consciousness of modern academics and intellectuals, that any contradictory hypotheses must be over-supported by the evidence in order to be accepted by even a small proportion of anthropologists and archaeologists.

The scientists at Longlin cave and other similar sites in China are working diligently to extract DNA from their skeletal specimens, in an attempt to discover where the "Red Deer Humans" may fit in the human evolutionary tree.

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