New information has been received regarding the Liujiang cave site in the Guanxi-Zhuang Autonomous Region of South China. In 1958, a well-preserved human cranium and several postcranial bones were found there. The fossil represents one of the earliest anatomically modern humans in East Asia. Other remains discovered in this horizon include those of Pongo sp., Ailuroda augustus, Sus sp., etc. Some of the animals are typical of the Upper Pleistocene fauna. The most often cited date for the Liujiang cranium is ca. 20 ka BP. Later stratigraphic studies demonstrated that the minimal age of the find may be 68 ka, the maximal age, over 153 ka, and the most likely chronological interval is 111–139 ka (Shen et al., 2002: 827).


The idea that East Asia may be yet another region where anatomically modern humans originated is supported by fossils from Zhiren Cave in the Guangxi-Zhuang Autonomous Region of South China (Wu et al., 2010). The cave is a karst cavity in the Trias deposits, situated 34 m above the Hejiang River and 179 m asl. In the distant part of the cave, there is a gallery which in the Lower Pleistocene was filled with loose sediments. Most of these subsequently disappeared (seemingly washed away by water streams). Part of the sediments remained on the walls and on the ceiling of the cave. Later, the cave began to be refilled with loose material. The same geological pattern is observed in many caves in northern Vietnam. Sedimentation gaps are evidenced by several annular dripstone formations overlying the loose sediments. The age of two upper formations, estimated by the uranium method, corresponds to OIS 3 (average, 28–52 ka BP). The formation beneath them was dated to 87–74 ka BP. Underlying loose sediments, which contained two human molars and a mandibular fragment, were dated to 113–100 ka BP (average, 106.2 ± 6.7 ka BP). Also associated with this layer were late Middle or early Upper Pleistocene faunal remains (Elephas kiangnanensis, Elephas maximus, etc.). A quarter of the recognized species are extinct. In the specialists’ view, the uranium dates and the faunal remains suggest that human fossils from Zhiren correlate with the beginning of OIS 5 or possibly with OIS 6.


The Zhiren 3 mandible demonstrates a characteristically modern morphology of the external symphysis with a distinct mental protuberance, rather deep mental fossae, moderately developed lateral tubercles, and a vertical symphysis – a combination setting the Zhiren individual apart from all known late archaic humans. At the same time, the morphology of the lingual surface of the symphysis and a robust corpus link the individual with other archaic humans of the Pleistocene. The experts believe that the age and morphology of the Zhiren fossil demonstrate that anatomically modern humans may have migrated to East Asia and assimilated their archaic predecessors. Alternatively, they may have originated in situ; in this case, however, admixture with archaic humans is also a possibility.

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