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 63,000-Year-Old Modern Human Skull Found in Laos

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Posts : 7972
Join date : 2012-05-29
Location : Manchester UK

PostSubject: 63,000-Year-Old Modern Human Skull Found in Laos   Wed 03 Oct 2012, 08:55

63,000-Year-Old Modern Human Skull Found in Laos

According to an international team of anthropologists,
an ancient skull collected from a cave in the Annamite Mountains in
northern Laos is the oldest modern human fossil found in Southeast Asia.

The skull pushes back the clock on modern human migration through the
region by as much as 20,000 years and indicates that ancient humans out
of Africa left the coast and inhabited diverse habitats much earlier
than previously appreciated.

The scientists, who found the skull in 2009, were likely the first to
dig for ancient bones in Laos since the early 1900s, when a team found
16,000-year-old skulls and skeletons of several modern humans in another
cave in the Annamite Mountains.

“It’s a particularly old modern human fossil and it’s also a
particularly old modern human for that region,” said Dr Laura
Shackelford, anthropologist at the University of Illinois and co-author
of the study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“There are other modern human fossils in China or in Island Southeast
Asia that may be around the same age but they either are not well dated
or they do not show definitively modern human features. This skull is
very well dated and shows very conclusive modern human features,” she

“No other artifacts have yet been found with the skull, suggesting
that the cave was not a dwelling or burial site, Shackelford said. It is
more likely that the person died outside and the body washed into the
cave sometime later,” Dr Shackelford explained. “The find reveals that
early modern human migrants did not simply follow the coast and go south
to the islands of Southeast Asia and Australia, as some researchers
have suggested, but that they also traveled north into very different
types of terrain.”

“This find supports an ‘Out-of-Africa’ theory of modern human origins
rather than a multi-regionalism model,” she said. “Given its age,
fossils in this vicinity could be direct ancestors of the first migrants
to Australia. But it is also likely that mainland Southeast Asia was a
crossroads leading to multiple migratory paths.”

The discovery also bolsters genetic studies that indicate that modern
humans occupied that part of the world at least 60,000 years ago, she

“This is the first fossil evidence that supports the genetic data.”

The scientists used uranium/thorium dating to determine the age of the skull, which they determined was about 63,000 years old.

They also found that the layer of soil surrounding the fossil had washed into the cave between 46,000 and 51,000 years ago.

“Those dates are a bit younger than the direct date on the fossil,
which we would expect because we don’t know how long the body sat
outside the cave before it washed in,” Dr Shackelford said.

“This fossil find indicates that the migration out of Africa and into
East and Southeast Asia occurred at a relatively rapid rate, and that,
once there, modern humans weren’t limited to environments that they had
previously experienced,” she said. “We now have the fossil evidence to
prove that they were there long before we thought they were there.”

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