300,000 Year Old Archaic Humans in China

Illustration from Wu et al 2019.

In an article published today (4/29/2019) in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), researchers describe the remains of Middle Pleistocene humans dating to about 300,000 years ago which were found in Hualongdong (HLD), China.

The remains were found in brecciated deposits, sedimentary layers of broken, angular rocks often formed thousands of years ago from debris flows as with the sort of flow from melted glacial ice.

Altogether there were 16 human fossils, which included portions of crania, 7 teeth, and 3 portions of one or more femors. There was also a significant portion of an adolescent skull (HLD 6, pictured above).

Features within these remains are consistent with early modern humans:

“…the HLD human fossils exhibit consistent patterns of neurocranial form (wide, low, and rounded in posterior view), frontal keeling, nasal aperture form (low and wide), rounded supraorbital tori with an inferior glabella and a recessed nasion, sloping to bilevel nasal floors, and consistent mandibular hypertrophy. […] In addition, the reduced midfacial projection, mandibular symphyseal morphology, and dental crown simplicity foreshadow the patterns of early modern humans, supporting some degree of regional consistency from archaic to modern morphology.”

Early human remains in East Asia and elsewhere continue to be “scattered, fragmentary, and/or poorly dated,” so this set of remains provides some much needed data when it comes to putting together the overall puzzle of human emergence.

These particular remains also help reinforce the trends that were already being observed in the archaeological record of the human past, providing continuity with other Middle Pleistocene remains and they are consistent with the patterns of regional change observed thus far in the Old World.

Further Reading:
Wu, Xiu-Jie; et al (2019). Archaic human remains from Hualongdong, China, and Middle Pleistocene human continuity and variation. PNAS, 10.1073/pnas.1902396116.

About Carl Feagans 397 Articles
Professional archaeologist that currently works for the United States Forest Service at the Land Between the Lakes Recreation Area in Kentucky and Tennessee. I'm also a 12-year veteran of the U.S. Army and spent another 10 years doing adventure programming with at-risk teens before earning my master's degree at the University of Texas at Arlington.

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