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Early human migration to Asia occurred sooner than previously believed, according to recent fossil discoveries

Early human migration to Asia occurred sooner than previously believed, according to recent fossil discoveries

Posted: Tuesday, June 13, 2023. 5:33 pm CST.

By Breaking Belize News Staff: As per new archaeological findings reported by CNN, it appears early humans departed from Africa and settled in Asia significantly earlier than previously speculated. A couple of fossils recently discovered in a cave in northern Laos indicate that Homo sapiens, our species, resided in the region approximately 86,000 years ago. This evidence contradicts the widely accepted theory that humans spread across the globe in a single linear wave between 50,000 to 60,000 years ago.

“Despite the likelihood that this early migration was unsuccessful, it’s indisputable that Homo sapiens had reached this region by this time. This is an astounding achievement,” Kira Westaway, an associate professor at Macquarie University in Australia and the study’s author, stated.

According to CNN, the DNA analysis of present-day human populations aligns with the theory that early modern humans left Africa about 50,000 to 60,000 years ago. Archaeologists previously theorized that our early ancestors likely traced coastlines and islands through Southeast Asia toward Australia. However, the uncovering of older human remains in China and the Levant region introduces complexity to this chapter of the human story.

“The migration that contributes to our current gene pool may not have been the first,” Westaway told CNN. “There may well have been earlier migrations that were not successful and hence did not contribute their genetics to our modern populations.”

Discovered in 2009, the Tam Pa Ling cave has been the source of several significant findings, including the latest two fossils – a fragment of a leg bone and part of the front of a skull. They, along with two jawbones, a rib, and a phalanx previously discovered, all bear the physical characteristics of early modern humans.

Dating the fossils posed a challenge due to their antiquity and Laotian laws protecting the UNESCO World Heritage Site. To estimate the fossils’ age, the research team applied two different techniques: luminescence measurement of quartz and feldspar minerals in the sediment layer and electron-spin-resonance dating of uranium isotopes in animal tooth enamel. They estimate that the fossils are between 68,000 and 86,000 years old.

These discoveries not only redefine the timeline of early human migration but also challenge the standard belief that early human movements in the region involved coastal and island locations, such as Sumatra, the Philippines, and Borneo.

“Early Homo sapiens had the capacity to adapt and disperse through upland forested regions much earlier than anticipated,” Westaway explained, highlighting the significance of the cave’s inland location.

The Tam Pa Ling site and its nearby Cobra Cave – which houses a tooth believed to belong to a Denisovan, an early human species – are rife with archaeological potential, encouraging researchers to continue their explorations.

“We expect to unearth more human fossils from the region,” Westaway shared with CNN, adding to the exciting prospects of paleoanthropology in this area.

 

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