Homo sapiens from the Fuyan Cave. Image credit: Wu Liu et al.” width=”980″ height=”400″ /> Homo sapiens from the Fuyan Cave. Image credit: Wu Liu et al.

Fossil teeth found in a South Chinese cave reveals that modern man migrated from Africa to China earlier than previously thought.

Human Teeth

The 47 human teeth found in a cave in southern China indicates that anatomically modern humans lived there already 80,000 years ago or even earlier. Carbon dating indicates the teeth being between 80,000 and 120,000 years ago.

The teeth were found in Fuyan Cave, a limestone cave located in Tangbei Village, Daoxian County, Hunan Province, in southern China. They are the first well-preserved fossils of remains from Homo sapiens this early on in history and from this part of the world.

The finding suggests that modern humans came from Africa to southern China, tens of thousands of years before they came to the Eastern Mediterranean and Europe.

“This is a milestone discovery because the species we found in the Fuyuan Cave is from well developed modern humans, almost identical to living humans,” said Dr. Liu Wu of the Chinese Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology, lead author of the discovery paper.

Exodus From Africa?

Our species originated in Africa 200,000 years ago, but when and how Homo sapiens dispersed onto the other continents is still debated. Several lines of scientific evidence, including genetics and archaeology, do support a dispersal of our species from Africa some 60,000 years ago. When early modern humans living on the northeastern horn of Africa are thought to have crossed the Red Sea via the Bab el Mandeb straits. And all non-African people alive today are thought to derive from this diaspora.

But these new findings force us to when this early human migration from Africa took place. As it must have happened much earlier than previously thought. But evidence supports the notion that modern humans arrived in Europe 45,000 years ago. And the question then is, why did they not migrate to Europe earlier?

The presence of the Neanderthals could have kept our species out of the westernmost Eurasia until they started to dwindle in number due to other natural causes, such as climate change. Or perhaps us modern humans were not as well-adapted as the Neanderthals for the icy climate of Europe.

The paper “The earliest unequivocally modern humans in southern China” has been published in the latest issue of the scientific journal Nature.

The earliest unequivocally modern humans in southern China