New research on a 260,000-year-old skull found in China in 1978 confirms it is strikingly similar to our species, Homo sapiens. This could deliver a major blow to the “Out of Africa” theory of human origins.
It has been commonly held that Homo sapiens evolved in Africa about 200,000 years ago, and left Africa to populate the world some 120,000 years ago.
The timeline for human origins was already pushed back at least 100,000 years with a discovery this summer.
This timeline already received a jolt this summer, when scientists announced that Homo sapiens remains from 300,000 to 350,000 years ago were found at a site in Jebel Irhoud, Morocco. Pushing back the timeline for Homo sapiens by more than 100,000 years is no small adjustment.
Now, this Dali skull suggests Homo sapiens existed way out in China 260,000 years ago. That’s about 6,000 miles from Morocco.
A Chinese scientist pointed out the similarities between the skull and modern humans long ago, but was largely ignored.
Xinzhi Wu of the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing raised the alarm on the Dali skull shortly after it was first found in Dali, Shaanxi Province. He saw many similarities between the skull and modern humans, but he was largely ignored because the timeline didn’t match up with what was commonly understood.
Wu teamed up with Sheela Athreya at Texas A&M University to conduct the recent analysis, published Oct. 25 in the American Journal of Physical Anthropology. Building on the new understanding from the Morocco remains, Wu and Athreya confirmed that the Dali skull represents a Homo sapiens presence in China 260,000 years ago.
The Dali skull shows the ‘Out of Africa’ theory is likely wrong.
They propose that Homo sapiens did not evolve in Africa and then migrate to the rest of the world. Rather, populations in China evolved independently to some degree and also intermingled with those in the West.
It is a more dynamic view of human origins that also suggests a more widespread presence of essentially modern humans across the world long before the common evolutionary timeline would allow.
The study authors wrote: “While one specimen alone cannot be the basis for broad conclusions about human evolution, Dali is in a unique position to provide critical information about the evolutionary history of Homo in East Asia given its completeness and well-dated provenience.”
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