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Discovery of ancient tools in China suggests humans left Africa earlier than previously thought


Ancient tools and bones discovered in China by archaeologists suggest early humans left Africa and arrived in Asia earlier than previously thought.

Discovery of ancient tools in China suggests humans left Africa earlier than previously thought
Stone tools from an archaeological site in China are as old as 2.1 million years
[Credit: Zhu et al./Nature 2018]
The artefacts show that our earliest human ancestors colonised East Asia over two million years ago. They were found by a Chinese team that was led by Professor Zhaoyu Zhu of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, and included Professor Robin Dennell of Exeter University. The tools were discovered at a locality called Shangchen in the southern Chinese Loess Plateau. The oldest are ca. 2.12 million years old, and are c. 270,000 years older than the 1.85 million year old skeletal remains and stone tools from Dmanisi, Georgia, which were previously the earliest evidence of humanity outside Africa.

Discovery of ancient tools in China suggests humans left Africa earlier than previously thought
Nestled on a hillside in China's Shaanxi Province, this dig site exposed
Shangchen's oldest stone tools [Credit: Zhaoyu Zhu]
The artefacts include a notch, scrapers, cobble, hammer stones and pointed pieces. All show signs of use - the stone had been intentionally flaked. Most were made of quartzite and quartz that probably came from the foothills of the Qinling Mountains 5 to 10 km to the south of the site, and the streams flowing from them. Fragments of animal bones 2.12 million years old were also found.

Discovery of ancient tools in China suggests humans left Africa earlier than previously thought
Chinese Academy of Sciences geologist Zhaoyu Zhu and his colleagues
excavated the area for 13 years [Credit: Zhaoyu Zhu]
The Chinese Loess Plateau covers about 270,000 square kilometres, and during the past 2.6m years between 100 and 300m of wind-blown dust - known as loess - has been deposited in the area.

Discovery of ancient tools in China suggests humans left Africa earlier than previously thought
Stone tools may have helped make it possible for hominins to travel far from Africa,
 archaeologists said [Credit: Zhaoyu Zhu]
The 80 stone artefacts were found predominantly in 11 different layers of fossil soils which developed in a warm and wet climate. A further 16 items were found in six layers of loess that developed under colder and drier conditions. These 17 different layers of loess and fossil soils were formed during a period spanning almost a million years. This shows that early types of humans occupied the Chinese Loess Plateau under different climatic conditions between 1.2 and 2.12 million years ago.

Discovery of ancient tools in China suggests humans left Africa earlier than previously thought
Picture taken at the site of the discovery of ancient tools in China
[Credit: Zhaoyu Zhu]
The layers containing these stone tools were dated by linking the magnetic properties of the layers to known and dated changes in the earth's magnetic field.

Discovery of ancient tools in China suggests humans left Africa earlier than previously thought

Professor Dennell said: "Our discovery means it is necessary now to reconsider the timing of when early humans left Africa".

The findings have been published in the journal Nature.

Source: University of Exeter [July 11, 2018]

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2 comments :

  1. Very interesting article, but not unexpected. We have argued that, when the Pleistocene sea-levels dropped, Homo could have dispersed intercontinentally over the vaste continental shelves of southern Eurasia ("continental shelf hypothesis"), and from the coasts ventured (initially seasonally?) inland along the rivers. Only a coastal route can explain the drastic brain expansion we see in H.erectus ("seafood is brainfood": DHA, iodine, taurin, oligo-elements), as well as erectus' "archaic" features such as very heavy bones (pachyosteosclerosis, google "coastal dispersal of Pleistocene Homo 2018"). Archaic Homo transported these stone tools not from the mountains as the authors suggest, but simply from the coast.

    ReplyDelete
  2. The word ancestors means that we are descended from them. Until that is established, the right word is either antecessor or predecessor.

    ReplyDelete


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