Ancient Skull Found In China Could Change The History Of Humans

To understand the evolution and history of humans takes time and considerable resources. Among those resources are fossil records of ancient humans and other human-like species as well as any other closely related species.

These are generally referred to as hominins by most scientists and scholars around the world. Hominins are a taxonomic classification that includes Homo (the genus that humans belong to), Australopithecines (closely related species to humans), and Panina, which are chimps and bonobos. These classifications are important because they allow us to break down fossil records into groups and create a structure that tells an accurate history of human evolution. Using our knowledge of human taxonomy and existing fossils, we are continually editing and forming the origins of humans.

In 2015, it was found that some human populations from 40,000 years ago contain 6-9% of Neanderthal DNA. These populations were in Europe and Asia, which is where the Neanderthals were located. This indicates that as humans existed alongside other hominins, there was contact and even interbreeding with the other hominin species. Nowadays, humans of Eurasian descent have about 1-4% of Neanderthal DNA.

Discoveries like this help to understand the migration of humans from Africa to Europe, Asia, and beyond. Discoveries also help us to trace certain traits and behaviors that we inherited as well. The genus Australopithecus contained species that started using some of the earliest forms of stone tools. The same genus also contained species that carried genes to increase the length and ability of neurons, which is important for the development of high social behaviors, and brain power.

About 3 million years ago, the genus Homo derived from Australopithecus and kept those same genes, which would eventually allow humans to be the sentient being we are today. The origins of humans are still debated and as more evidence appears, it will continue to be debated until there is nothing left to find.

Human Origins and Migration

Concerning the origins of humans, there are two contending theories on how we became us. The first is the multiregional origin theory. The theory holds that humans appeared 2 million years ago and all future evolutions of humans occurred within a single and continuous species.

This means that Homo erectus and Neanderthals all belonged to the same archaic human species that would eventually become modern human, Homo sapien sapiens. The theory holds that the ancient humans (h. erectus) had spread to different parts of the world in Africa, Europe, Asia, and Australia. As they separated to different regions, each group developed and evolved their own characteristics for those regions.

Gene flow continued between the groups, to maintain genetic similarity, as they evolved but the groups mainly stayed in their particular region. Each group would eventually become the modern humans in their region as time went on to give rise to the diversity that we see within our species.

One of the more antiquated theories concerning the origins of humans is the out of Africa theory. It contends that modern humans evolved from h. erectus about 200,000-400,000 years ago in Africa. Generally, many scientists and scholars consider 200,000 years ago the time when modern humans came about based on existing fossil records.

The out of Africa theory holds that as humans developed in Africa, about 60,000-70,000 years ago they started to migrate out of Africa. While the exact reason for this migration is unclear, many researchers believe that it is because of shifts in climate that forced groups to move. These humans moved from Africa to Eurasia then Australia and finally the Americas by 12,000-15,000 years ago.

The out of Africa origin also contends that there was a much earlier migration about 115,000-130,000 years ago but they died out. This theory is the more accepted one because there are more fossil and genetic evidence to support it. The oldest and most recognizable modern human fossil was found in Ethiopia and dated to 200,000 years ago. Recent genetic tests on mitochondria, which is inherited from the mother, shows evidence of a strong African origin. It is probably the more accepted because it is also the simpler explanation of the two, which follows Occam’s razor.

“Spreading homo sapiens la” by NordNordWest via Wikimedia Commons is licensed under CC0

The Dali Skull

The Dali skull was recently found in China and it was dated back to 260,000 years ago. What is interesting about it is that it shows features of both h. sapiens and h. erectus. This raises a lot of questions because the current timeline for humans starts at 200,000 years ago based on the out of Africa origin.

For the skull to be in China for over 100,000 years before many people believe humans were in China means that our history is not accurate. The implications of this are that humans may not have evolved only in Africa, which would give more support towards the multiregional origin theory because it would match the fact that humans evolved along a single species from ancient humans to modern humans. This would result in a sort of blending of traits that we see in the dali man.

Alternatively, it could mean that our timeline of when humans appeared is wrong because the out of Africa theory gives us a time frame of 200,000 to 400,000 years for humans to have appeared. We use 200,000 because of existing fossils. We also know that there were previous migrations into Eurasia from Africa before the more successful one. Finally, many fossils are lost and not everything has been discovered yet. It stands to reason that humans could have evolved in Africa earlier than what we know and had migration events earlier as well that we are only now discovering.

We base our discoveries on the data that we have. As we get more information and more evidence, our understanding of the ancient world changes and becomes more accurate. This is true of all science. It is up to us to understand the history of all those extinct species as well as our own history because they all intertwine and expand our knowledge of how humans came to be. We are constantly correcting and updating our knowledge and many things we know now will change and update.

About The Author

Mohendra Shiwnarain

Mohendra has a Bachelor's degree in Biology and a Masters in Biotechnology. Growing up, he enjoyed learning as much as he could from any and all topics. He has gone on many Wikipedia rabbit holes, scouring to find more interesting facts than the last. He writes to both learn and lead others into their own search of scientific knowledge, both mundane and interesting.

Comments (2)

  1. One has to remember the significance of the Toba eruption in Sumatra about 80,000 years ago to human evolution. The eruption of >3600 cubic km of ash left deep deposits of ash over much of southern and central Asia and Africa and would have dramatically interrupted the growing season, especially at any latitude north or south of 20-25 degrees for a minimum of 2 years and possibly as much as 10, with dire consequences. The ash would also have cause life-threating lung damage to both prey animals and hominoids themselves. Populations would have been dramatically reduced or individual population groups driven to extinction.

Speak Your Mind!


Modeling Chaos Eddy Flows Using Navier–Stokes Equations And Lid-Driven Square Cavity

Incompressible fluids are fluids that do not change their volume while they flow. Water in the oceans and air in the atmosphere are examples of incompressible fluids. The equations of motion for a viscous incompressible fluid are the Navier-Stokes equations (NSE). In 1822 Claude Louis Marie Navier, a French mathematician-engineer, derived the NSE. Afterwards, in […]

Sclerostin Vaccine Prevents Osteoporosis

Osteoporosis tops the cause of chronic bone abnormality, putting the skeleton at a risk of fracture due to severely low bone mass and terribly fragile architecture, and affecting over fifty million people around the world [1]. This degenerative bone disorder takes place with age and turns patients’ activity and life quality upside down. Most devastatingly, […]

Nickel As A Catalyst For Benzene And Cyclohexane

Catalysts are substances used to control the production of chemicals by changing how fast reactions occur. The most familiar type to most people is the catalytic converter used to clean car exhausts, but most things made by industry use a catalyst at some point in their production. In 1998 it was estimated that catalysts contributed […]

Large Scale Lifestyle Study Suggests Coffee Good For Your Health

Coffee is one of the most commonly consumed beverages in the world, with millions of people enjoying the boost they receive from the caffeine in the coffee. A new large-scale lifestyle and health study may have some good news for these people, suggesting that coffee may have a variety of health benefits including lowering risk […]

What Are The Monomers Of Lipids?

A lipid is a biological molecule that dissolves (is soluble) in nonpolar solvents, and the monomers of lipids are fatty acids and glycerol. To better understand what this means, let’s take a look at both lipids and monomers in the context of organic molecules. We’ll begin by seeing what the definitions of both monomers and […]

How Soil Management Can Help In The Battle Against Panama Disease And Other Fusarium Wilts

Fusarium wilt, a plant disease caused by pathogenic strains of the soil fungus Fusarium oxysporum, affects over 100 crops including banana, tomato, ginger, cucumber, oil palm, watermelon, wheat, and flax. Fusarium wilt of bananas, also known as Panama disease, is rapidly spreading around the globe, threatening banana and plantain production. For most crops, including banana, […]

When Electrons In Gold Nanoparticles Become Hot, They Transform A Glass of Water Into Clean Fuel

Metals possess many electrons that can easily absorb energy from the environment — for instance, in form of light or heat — and use that extra energy to become more mobile. This is why metals are good conductors. Metal nanoparticles also possess a high number of electrons, which can also interact with light and heat. […]