Humans arrive earlier in SE Asia than believed
Humans may have exited out of Africa and arrived in Southeast Asia 20,000 years earlier than previously thought, a new study involving University of Queensland researchers suggests.
Findings from the Macquarie University-led study also suggest humans could have potentially made the crossing to Australia even earlier than the accepted 60,000 to 65,000 years ago. Dr Gilbert Price of UQ School of Earth and Environmental Sciences said the dating of a cave site in West Sumatra, called Lida Ajer, provided first evidence for rainforest use of modern humans.
“Rainforests aren’t the easiest place to make a living, especially for a savannah-adapted primate, so it suggests that these people were ahead of the curve in terms of intelligence, planning and technological adaptation,” Dr Price said.
The new work came about thanks to the work of a brilliant Dutch paleo-anthropologist Eugene Dubois, famed for his discovery of ‘Java Man’. “He visited a series of caves in Sumatra in the late 1800s, and in one in particular, recovered some human teeth, which is quite interesting in itself, but no one had spent much time trying to determine their significance,” Dr Price said.
“Fast forward over 100 years later, both the team of lead author Dr Kira Westaway of Macquarie University and my crew (separately) were lucky enough to re-discover and visit the caves.
As a result of thorough documentation of the cave, reanalysis of the specimens, and a new dating program, it was confirmed the teeth were modern humans, Homo sapiens, but dated to as old as 73,000 years ago.”
Southeast Asia is a key region in the path of human dispersal from Africa round to Australia, as all hominins would have had to pass through this region en route to Australia. Above: The Lida Ajer modern human tooth (left top) with its corresponding scanned image (left bottom) compared to an orangutan tooth (right)