Finds from the? Cave of the monkeys? in Laos. Credit: Univ. Illinois / Urbana Champaign, Laura Shackelford)
After he had left his African homeland, the modern man arrived earlier to Southeast Asia than previously thought. This is at least suggested by studies of fossil skull fragments from a cave in Laos. According to the datings, the bone pieces are up to 63, 000 years old and have the characteristics of an anatomically modern man, report Laura Shackelford of the University of Illinois and her colleagues. The oldest safe dated finds of modern people in the region are about 40, 000 years old. The researchers had the skull bones already in 2009 in the "cave of the monkeys? discovered in the north of Laos. Presumably, the person they once belonged to was not dying or buried in the cave, but its remains were carried there by water. This is indicated by the clear layer structure of the sediments at the site, the researchers say. At 2.35 meters, they encountered a human skullcap and an upper jaw with almost complete dentation.

Ancient bones with modern features

The anatomical features of the bone fragments clearly assigned to modern humans, report Laura Shackelford and her colleagues. It lacks, for example, the pronounced Überaugenwulst that was typical of archaic human forms. The dating using the uranium-thorium method finally gave an age of 46, 000 to 63, 000 years. By contrast, the sediment surrounding the find proved to be a little younger: Luminescence dating was 46, 000 to 51, 000 years old. According to the researchers, this plausibly fits in with the assumption that the human remains first lay outside the cave for some time before being later flushed into it.

If the age requirements were confirmed, this would make bones the earliest evidence of modern humans in Southeast Asia. The oldest traces so far, which could similarly be assigned to modern Homo sapiens, are only 40, 000 years old. According to the researchers, the new find is probably a remnant of a representative of the first wave of emigration of modern humans from Africa. They eventually even colonized Australia and are considered the direct ancestors of the Aborigines. "When they spread across the earth, they had reached Southeast Asia much earlier than previously thought, " sums up Laura Shackelford. display

Alain Robichon (Sophia Agrobiotech Institute in Sophia Antipolis) et al .: Scientific Reports, doi: 10.1038 / srep00579 © science.de? Martin Vieweg

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