Saturday, August 25, 2012

Oldest Modern Human Ancestor in SE Asia Found

Portions of a Modern Human Skull Found in Laos

oldest human skull SE Asia
Skull Discovered Tam Pa Ling
F. Demeter

It has been speculated for some time that our modern human ancestors arrived in Southeast Asia within the last 60,000 Years as both genetic and archaeological data supports this theory.  However until 2009 when the limestone cave Tam Pa Ling (Cave of the Monkeys), located in Laos, was found there was little to back this up.

The skull has modern human features including facial bones and teeth and was determined to be at least 46,000 years old.

Researchers were unwilling to remove teeth from the complete skull and instead dated the sediments it was buried in.  The maximum determined age of the fossil is 63,000 years old giving the skull an age range of 46,000 to 63,000 years old.
Cave of the monkey excavation
Tam Pa Ling Excavation 

There are a number of other sites in the region that have produced stone tools that date considerably older but with no skeletal remains surrounding these sites.

cave of the monkeys location
Site of "The Cave of the Monkeys" 
There is still some concern over the fact that within the cave there has not been significant archaeological evidence found indicating that humans resided within the cave therefore it has been speculated that the person died outside the cave and was washed in and buried by quickly running water.  

One other interesting note is that the top half of the soil in the cave has been washed out and replaced with substantially younger soil causing the soil age to go from 51,000 years old to 2700 years old within one meter.

Very interesting yet still a puzzle, and that is why science is so great!

Full report and information can be found here at PNAS's website.



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