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Wednesday 28 September 2005

The hominin (WP) record from southern Asia for the early late Pleistocene (WP) epoch is scarce. Well-dated and well-preserved fossils older than 45,000 years that can be unequivocally attributed to Homo sapiens are lacking.

Fuyan Cave in Daoxian

It has been presented evidence from the newly excavated Fuyan Cave in Daoxian (southern China). This site has provided 47 human teeth dated to more than 80,000 years old, and with an inferred maximum age of 120,000 years. The morphological and metric assessment of this sample supports its unequivocal assignment to Homo sapiens.

The Daoxian sample is more derived than any other anatomically modern humans, resembling middle-to-late Late Pleistocene specimens and even contemporary humans.

A study shows that fully modern morphologies were present in southern China 30,000–70,000 years earlier than in the Levant and Europe. These data fill a chronological and geographical gap that is relevant for understanding when H. sapiens first appeared in southern Asia.

The Daoxian teeth also support the hypothesis that during the same period, southern China was inhabited by more derived populations than central and northern China. This evidence is important for the study of dispersal routes of modern humans.

Finally, these results are relevant to exploring the reasons for the relatively late entry of H. sapiens into Europe. Some studies have investigated how the competition with H. sapiens may have caused Neanderthals’ extinction.

Notably, although fully modern humans were already present in southern China at least as early as 80,000 years ago, there is no evidence that they entered Europe before 45,000 years ago.

This could indicate that Homo neanderthalensis was indeed an additional ecological barrier for modern humans, who could only enter Europe when the demise of Neanderthals had already started.

Yixi site

- DNA have been extracted from the human remains excavated from the Yixi site ( approximately 2,000 years before the present) in the Shandong peninsula of China.

  • Through PCR amplification, determined nucleotide sequences of their mitochondrial D-loop regions.
  • Nucleotide diversity of the ancient Yixi people was similar to those of modern populations.
  • Modern humans in Asia and the circum-Pacific region are divided into six radiation groups, on the basis of the phylogenetic network constructed by means of mtDNA studies. -* The ancient Yixi people have been compared with the modern Asian and the circum-Pacific populations, using two indices: frequency distribution of the radiation groups and genetic distances among populations. Both revealed that the closest genetic relatedness is between the ancient Yixi people and the modern Taiwan Han Chinese.
  • The Yixi people show closer genetic affinity with Mongolians, mainland Japanese, and Koreans than with Ainu and Ryukyu Japanese and less genetic resemblance with Jomon people and Yayoi people, their predecessors and contemporaries, respectively, in ancient Japan.


- The earliest unequivocally modern humans in southern China. Liu W, Martinón-Torres M, Cai YJ, Xing S, Tong HW, Pei SW, Sier MJ, Wu XH, Edwards RL, Cheng H, Li YY, Yang XX, de Castro JM, Wu XJ. Nature. 2015 Oct 14. doi : 10.1038/nature15696 PMID: 26466566

- Xie CZ, Li CX, Cui YQ, Zhang QC, Fu YQ, Zhu H, Zhou H. Evidence of ancient DNA reveals the first European lineage in Iron Age Central China.
Proc Biol Sci. 2007 Apr 24; PMID: 17456455

- Oota H, Saitou N, Matsushita T, Ueda S. Molecular genetic analysis of remains of a 2,000-year-old human population in China-and its relevance for the origin of the modern Japanese population. Am J Hum Genet. 1999 Jan;64(1):250-8. PMID: 9915964