Thursday, March 12, 2009

"Peking Man" Fossils Older than Originally Thought

The fossil hominid skeletal material from Zhoukoudian, the famous "Peking Man" fossils are now thought to date to as early as 780 kya. From Yahoo News:

The findings, published in the London-based science journal Nature, are sure to stir controversy among scientists, who have long debated the timing and routes of hominin migrations.

Up to now, the favoured theory was that a single exodus of homo erectus moved out of Africa some two million years ago, progressing across the Arabian Peninsula, the Indian subcontinent and coastal southeast Asia.

From there it was thought that some moved across land bridges during a glacial period to what later became the island of Java. The first erectus fossils were found on the Indonesian island in 1892, and have been definitively dated back some 1.6 million years.

Another group, the theory goes, made their way north, eventually settling in the region north and west Beijing.

But the revised dating of Peking Man -- combined with other recent studies -- points to a separate migration across Eurasia from another region inhabited by homo erectus some 1.8 million years ago, in modern-day Georgia.

I have contended that the cranial morphology of the Zhoukoudian remains suggests at least a separate population of Homo erectus in China; possibly a separate species, possibly an adaptation to some climatic stress.

Creationists have long contended that the remains are fakes because we no longer have the original remains. For the fascinating story of why that happened, go here. What is clear is that the remains were not fakes in any way. More information has come to light in other parts of China that paints a picture of different Homo erectus adaptations to different areas of China. By virtue of the discovery of other Homo erectus remains at the same site, including the remains of a skull cap and teeth in 1966, the creationist arguments, which were bad to begin with, are rendered irrelevant. It is amazing that they continue to make this claim despite the fact that virtually every palaeoanthropologist knew about the 1966 remains long before creationists cried 'foul'.

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