Hominin occupation in China from 2.1 million years ago

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Of potential interest for Southeast Asia: 2.1 million-year-old stone tools discovered in China pushes back the dates of hominins outside of Africa by several hundred thousand years. The term “Southern Chinese Loess Plateau” may be a little confusing: it’s not in Southern China, and the area of discovery sits between the Yangtze and Yellow Rivers.

Hominin occupation of the Chinese Loess Plateau since about 2.1 million years ago
Zhu et. al
Nature
https://doi.org/10.1038/s41586-018-0299-4

Considerable attention has been paid to dating the earliest appearance of hominins outside Africa. The earliest skeletal and artefactual evidence for the genus Homo in Asia currently comes from Dmanisi, Georgia, and is dated to approximately 1.77–1.85 million years ago (Ma)1. Two incisors that may belong to Homo erectus come from Yuanmou, south China, and are dated to 1.7 Ma2; the next-oldest evidence is an H. erectus cranium from Lantian (Gongwangling)—which has recently been dated to 1.63 Ma3—and the earliest hominin fossils from the Sangiran dome in Java, which are dated to about 1.5–1.6 Ma4. Artefacts from Majuangou III5 and Shangshazui6 in the Nihewan basin, north China, have also been dated to 1.6–1.7 Ma. Here we report an Early Pleistocene and largely continuous artefact sequence from Shangchen, which is a newly discovered Palaeolithic locality of the southern Chinese Loess Plateau, near Gongwangling in Lantian county. The site contains 17 artefact layers that extend from palaeosol S15—dated to approximately 1.26 Ma—to loess L28, which we date to about 2.12 Ma. This discovery implies that hominins left Africa earlier than indicated by the evidence from Dmanisi.

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Earliest known hominin activity in the Philippines by 709 thousand years ago

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Very exciting news out of the Philippines today, a paper published in Nature describes the discovery of stone tools and a butchered rhino fossil in the Cagayan Valley that dates to between 777,000 – 631,000 years ago. This early date forces us to rethink hominin capabilities in crossing water during the Pleistocene.

Earliest known hominin activity in the Philippines by 709 thousand years ago
Ingicco et al.
Nature, doi:10.1038/s41586-018-0072-8

Over 60 years ago, stone tools and remains of megafauna were discovered on the Southeast Asian islands of Flores, Sulawesi and Luzon, and a Middle Pleistocene colonization by Homo erectus was initially proposed to have occurred on these islands1,2,3,4. However, until the discovery of Homo floresiensis in 2003, claims of the presence of archaic hominins on Wallacean islands were hypothetical owing to the absence of in situ fossils and/or stone artefacts that were excavated from well-documented stratigraphic contexts, or because secure numerical dating methods of these sites were lacking. As a consequence, these claims were generally treated with scepticism5. Here we describe the results of recent excavations at Kalinga in the Cagayan Valley of northern Luzon in the Philippines that have yielded 57 stone tools associated with an almost-complete disarticulated skeleton of Rhinoceros philippinensis, which shows clear signs of butchery, together with other fossil fauna remains attributed to stegodon, Philippine brown deer, freshwater turtle and monitor lizard. All finds originate from a clay-rich bone bed that was dated to between 777 and 631 thousand years ago using electron-spin resonance methods that were applied to tooth enamel and fluvial quartz. This evidence pushes back the proven period of colonization6 of the Philippines by hundreds of thousands of years, and furthermore suggests that early overseas dispersal in Island South East Asia by premodern hominins took place several times during the Early and Middle Pleistocene stages1,2,3,4. The Philippines therefore may have had a central role in southward movements into Wallacea, not only of Pleistocene megafauna7, but also of archaic hominins.

Source: Earliest known hominin activity in the Philippines by 709 thousand years ago | Nature

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Hominins on Flores by one million years ago

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A paper by Brumm et al released online in Nature earlier this month reports the finds of stone tools in Wolo Sege, Flores dating to about a million years old. Some of the news media (see links below) are linking the find to the ‘hobbit’ found in the same island although there doesn’t seem to be a direct connection. The finds don’t seem all that surprising to me, since we already know that some hominins (Homo erectus) reached Java a million and a half years ago and another earlier find of stone tools dated 880,000 years was found just half a kilometre away, but it’ll be interesting to see if a link between these million-year-old hominins and the hobbit can be established.

Hominins on Flores, Indonesia, by one million years ago
Nature, 17 March 2010
doi:10.1038/nature08844

“Hobbits” Had Million-Year History on Island?
National Geographic, 17 March 2010

Tools found on ‘hobbit’ island
The Irish Times, 18 March 2010

‘Hobbits’ May Have Arrived in Flores Much Earlier Than Thought: Scientists
Jakarta Globe, 18 March 2010

‘Hobbit’ island’s deeper history

BBC News, 18 March 2010

Early humans colonized Indonesian island
ABC, via CBC News, 18 March 2010
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Two websites on early man

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Just came across two websites in the past week for those of you who might be interested in early man in Southeast Asia. Anthropology.net just announced the start of a new web initiative, the Hominin Database, which hopes to be a public repository of fossil remains. It’s really at its beginning phases now, and they’re looking for contributors to help with building the database.

Hominin Database

Over at our Facebook site, Jeff Almonte from the Philippines shared a site about Human Origins Patrimony in Southeast Asia (HOPSea), a multi-country collaborative project to share research on Hominid Evolution in Southeast Asia. One thing for sure, you won’t find the Johor Bigfoot here!

HOPSEA


Related Books:
A New Human: The Startling Discovery and Strange Story of the “Hobbits” of Flores, Indonesia by M. Morwood and P. van Oosterzee
Eughne DuBois and the Ape-Man from Java: The History of the First Missing Link’ and Its Discoverer by B.Theunissen, L. T. Theunissen
Perak Man and Other Prehistoric Skeletons of Malaysia by Z. Majid (Ed.)
Prehistory of the Indo-Malaysian Archipelago by P. Bellwood
Little People And a Lost World: An Anthropological Mystery by L. Goldenberg
Forager-Traders in South and Southeast Asia: Long-Term Histories by K. D. Morrison
Southeast Asia: From Prehistory to History by P. S. Bellwood and I. Glover (Eds)