researchers from CENIEH are part of a team of Chinese, Spanish and French scientists, which has just published in the journal Journal of Human Evolution a study on what possibly oldest human fossil in china.

The authors used micro-CT techniques, geometric morphometry and classical morphology to investigate the remains of the maxilla and five teeth of the skull of the Chinese site of Gongwangling.

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This deposit is located in the vast plains located on the northern slopes of the Quinling Mountains (Shaanxi Province, central China) and was discovered in 1963 by the scientist Woo Ju Kang. The age of the site was reassessed in 2015 through paleomagnetism studies in the region.

The data suggest that Gongwangling’s remains date back more than 1.6 million years, so they may belong to one of the first humans to colonize present-day China.

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The data suggest that the remains of Gongwangling date from just over 1.6 million yearsso that they could belong to one of the first human beings who colonized present-day China.

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Similarities and differences with other fossils in the region

According to the results of this study, there are similarities between the teeth of Gongwangling and those of other slightly more recent Chinese locations: Meipu and Foz do Rio Quyuan; but also some variability, which suggests a certain population diversity homo erectus who colonized Asia during the Pleistocene.

The importance of this new work lies in the scarcity of information about the beginning of the colonization of Asia.

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The importance of this new work lies in the scarcity of information about the beginning of the colonization of Asia.

The Dmanisi site (Republic of Georgia) provided very important evidence about the first inhabitants of Asia, who arrived from Africa approximately 2 million years ago. But much information is lacking to connect Dmanisi with the populations of homo erectus Classical China (Hexian, Yiyuan, Xichuan or Zhoukoudian), which lived on this large landmass between 400,000 and 800,000 years ago.

“The Gongwangling site fills this huge period of time and suggests that Asia could have been populated by successive populations of the species. homo erectus at different times of the Pleistocene”, points out Jose Maria Bermudez de Castrocoordinator of the CENIEH Paleobiology Program.

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Features of the Gongwangling Skull

The Gongwangling skull exhibits all the features described in homo erectus: low and very elongated skull, with very thick bones, which protected a brain of about 780 cubic centimeters; very sloping front, with eyebrows very marked and forming a kind of double arched visor above the eyes, flat parietals, which rise in the upper part of the skull forming a sagittal keel; maximum width of the parietals located at the base of the skull.

It is a low and very elongated skull, with very thick bones, which protected a brain of about 780 cubic centimeters; heavily sloping forehead with very marked ridges

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Gongwangling’s occiput is incomplete, but the reconstruction shows how this bone turns too sharply to form the base of the skull.

The close collaboration between Chinese scientists, led by Liu Wuof the Institute of Paleontology and Paleoanthropology of Vertebrates (IVPP), and the Spaniards from CENIEH for the study of fossil teeth from China, has been essential in this new investigation, in which they also participated Laura Martin-French s Maria Martinon Torres.

Reference

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Pan L., Zanolli C., Martinón-Torres M., Bermúdez de Castro JM, Martín-Francés L., Xing S., Liu W. (2022). Early Pleistocene hominid teeth of Gongwangling from Lantian, Central China. Journal of Human Evolution (2022)

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