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Middle Pleistocene teeth add new data to hominin evolution in Asia

Although a relatively large number of late Middle Pleistocene hominins have been found in East Asia, these fossils have not been consistently included in current debates about the origin of anatomically modern humans (AMHS), and little is known about their phylogenetic place in relation to contemporary hominins from Africa and Europe as well as to Upper Pleistocene hominins. Dr. LIU Wu, Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology (IVPP), Chinese Academy of Sciences, and his international collaborators present a detailed description and comparative analysis of four hominin teeth (I1, C1, P3 and P3) recovered from the late Middle Pleistocene cave site of Panxian Dadong, Guizhou of southwestern China, including two new teeth recovered in 1998-2000 and the reassessment of two teeth already described. The Panxian Dadong teeth combine archaic and derived features that align them with Middle and Upper Pleistocene fossils from East and West Asia and Europe, providing new data for the discussion about the evolutionary course of the Middle Pleistocene of Asia. Researchers reported online March 4 in Journal of Human Evolution (2013).

For the past two decades, research and debates on modern human origins have focused on the emergence of AMHS around the world. Some recent fossil discoveries are interpreted as evidence that early modern humans appeared in East Africa by 160 ka or even earlier. In East Asia, because of the paucity of fossil discoveries and unreliable dating, it has long been argued that early AMHS did not appear until 50 ka. Recently, studies of new Upper Pleistocene hominin fossils from the Huanglong and Zhiren caves suggest that early AMHS may have been present in East Asia as early as 100 ka. In addition, a recent analysis of a Middle Pleistocene dental assemblage from Qesem Cave (Israel) leaves open the possibility that this non-African population may belong to early Homo sapiens. Thus, the phylogenetic and taxonomic assessments of the Middle Pleistocene lineages preceding the appearance of H. sapiens have become a crucial piece in the debate about the origins of modern humans....

Read entire article at Archaeology News Network