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Skulls inform biology of predecessors of modern humans in Eastern Eurasia

American Association for the Advancement of Science

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IMAGE: Virtual reconstructions of the Xuchang 1 and 2 human crania, superimposed on the archeological site where they were discovered. This material relates to a paper that appeared in the 3... view more

Credit: Xiujie Wu

Two human skulls unearthed in central China have provided novel insights into an otherwise poorly understood area of human evolution; namely, the biology of the immediate predecessors of modern humans in eastern Eurasia. The skull remains, dated to about 100,000 years ago, reflect a mosaic of features, report Zhan-Yang Li and colleagues, suggesting a complex pattern of regional interconnectedness in the Eurasian continent. These features include the large brain size and modest brow ridges characteristic of early modern humans, the low and broad braincase representative of earlier eastern Eurasian humans, and finally, the semicircular canals associated with western Eurasian Neandertals. The collective appearance of these features, the authors say, reinforces a pattern of regional population continuity in eastern Eurasia 100,000 years ago, as well as population connections more broadly across the entire Eurasian continent. The mosaic features also highlight the dynamic nature of human evolution leading up to the emergence of modern humans, as we know them today. The skulls were discovered at the Lingjing site in the city of Xuchang, China.

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