Posted on January 24, 2008

Chinese Skull Discovery May Cause Human Origins Rethink

RIA Novosti, January 24, 2008v

Chinese archaeologists have uncovered a 100,000-year-old fossilized human skull in central China which may throw new light on the origins of the human race, national media said on Thursday.

The well-preserved skull was found in the central Chinese province of Henan, and Chinese scientists say it could disprove the widely-held theory that Homo sapiens originated in Africa.

The majority of Chinese scientists share the multiregional theory of human origin, which says that humans evolved separately in different regions.

The opposite theory, the Out-of-Africa model, says that Homo sapiens originated in Africa, and that some prehistoric humans left the continent about 60,000 years ago. This theory is supported by the small number of older human fossils found in other regions as compared to on the African continent.

The Chinese media has already dubbed the finding as “the greatest discovery in China after the discovery of the Peking Man and Upper Cave Man skulls in Beijing early last century.”

However, paleontologists say that no conclusions can be drawn until the discovery has been carefully studied.

“More astonishing than the completeness of the skull is that it still has a fossilized membrane on the inner side allowing scientists to track the nerves of our Paleolithic ancestor,” an archaeologist with the Henan cultural relics and archaeology research institute said.

The skull was well-preserved due to the nearby presence of hard water, containing high amounts of calcium ions.

Besides the skull, archaeologists also found about 30,000 animal fossils and stone and bone artifacts at the site.