Stone tools in China sug­gest early hu­man pres­ence in Asia

China Daily (USA) - - CHINA - By BO LE­UNG in Lon­don bole­ung@mail.chi­nadai­lyuk.com

A Bri­tish-Chinese team of sci­en­tists has dis­cov­ered ev­i­dence that early hu­man an­ces­tors were in Asia 2.12 million years ago, more than 200,000 years ear­lier than pre­vi­ously thought.

Stone tools found at Shangchen on a plateau in north­ern China sug­gest prim­i­tive hu­mans, or a close rel­a­tive, were in the re­gion. Pre­vi­ously, the ear­li­est ev­i­dence of hu­man an­ces­tors out­side Africa was in Dman­isi, Ge­or­gia — dat­ing back 1.85 million years.

The new find­ings, pub­lished in the sci­en­tific jour­nal Na­ture, in­di­cate that ho­minids, the fam­ily that in­cludes hu­mans and their an­ces­tors, left Africa ear­lier than is sug­gested by the ev­i­dence at Dman­isi.

The Chinese team, led by ge­ol­o­gist Zhu Zhaoyu of the Guangzhou In­sti­tute of Geo­chem­istry, un­earthed 96 types of stone tools made for a va­ri­ety of pur­poses.

The stones were ex­tracted from 17 lay­ers of sed­i­ment at a site in Shangchen, on the Loess Plateau, about 1,200 kilo­me­ters south­west of Bei­jing.

All the stones showed signs of hav­ing been used, and an­i­mal re­mains were found nearby.

The most com­mon stone was quartzite and other quartz rock that prob­a­bly came from the foothills of the Qin­gling Moun­tains, five to 10 kilo­me­ters south of the dig site, as well as from the streams flow­ing from them.

But it’s not known yet which species of hu­man rel­a­tive made the tools.

“Our dis­cov­ery means it is nec­es­sary now to re­con­sider the tim­ing of when the early hu­mans left Africa,” said Robin Den­nell of Ex­eter Univer­sity, co-au­thor of the Na­ture study.

The old­est known African fos­sil at­trib­uted to a mem­ber of the Homo fam­ily is a 2.8-million-year-old jaw­bone from Ethiopia.

Un­til now, the old­est ev­i­dence for ho­minids in Asia came from Ge­or­gia in the form of fos­silized skele­ton bits and ar­ti­facts from be­tween 1.77 million and 1.85 million years ago.

With the new re­search, sci­en­tists be­lieve that the stone tools found in China range in age from 1.6 million to 2.1 million years ago.

Agence France-Presse re­ported that Den­nell and the team of re­searchers used a field of sci­ence known as “pa­le­o­mag­netism” to date the sed­i­men­tary lay­ers. The lay­ers form when dust or mud set­tles and is later topped by an­other new soil coat. Any ar­ti­fact found within a layer would be the same age as the soil around it.

The teams mea­sured the mag­netic prop­er­ties of the min­er­als in the soil lay­ers to de­ter­mine when they were de­posited.

The re­search also sup­ports some sci­en­tific views that the hu­man an­ces­tor, Homo erec­tus, may have orig­i­nated in Asia, not Africa.

PRO­VIDED TO CHINA DAILY

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