Jin Changzhu and colleagues of the Institute of Vertebrate Palaeontology and Palaeoanthropology in Beijing, announced to Chinese media last week that they have uncovered a 110,000-year-old putative Homo sapiens jawbone from a cave in southern China’s Guangxi province.
If confirmed, the finding would lend support to the “multiregional hypothesis”. This says that modern humans descend from Homo sapiens coming out of Africa who then interbred with more primitive humans on other continents. In contrast, the prevailing “out of Africa” hypothesis holds that modern humans are the direct descendants of people who spread out of Africa to other continents around 100,000 years ago.
The study will appear in Chinese Science Bulletin later this month.
Out of China?
“[This paper] acts to reject the theory that modern humans are of uniquely African origin and supports the notion that emerging African populations mixed with natives they encountered,” says Milford Wolpoff, a proponent of the multiregional hypothesis at the University of Michigan.
Others disagreed. Erik Trinkaus, an anthropologist at Washington University in St Louis, Missouri, questioned whether the find was a true Homo sapiens.
“You need to keep in mind that ‘Homo sapiens’ for most Chinese scholars is not limited to anatomically modern humans,” he says. “For many of them, it is all ‘post Homo erectus,’ humans.”