Huanglong Cave (Chine): Evidence for early presence of modern humans in eastern Asia

Mass spectrometric U-series dating of Huanglong Cave in Hubei Province, central China: Evidence for early presence of modern humans in eastern Asia

Guanjun Shena,  Xianzhu Wub, Qian Wangc,  Hua Tua, Yue-xing Fengd, Jian-xin Zhaod

Source -

Journal of Human Evolution


Most researchers believe that anatomically modern humans (AMH) first appeared in Africa 160-190 ka ago, and would not have reached eastern Asia until ∼50 ka ago. However, the credibility of these scenarios might have been compromised by a largely inaccurate and compressed chronological framework previously established for hominin fossils found in China. Recently there has been a growing body of evidence indicating the possible presence of AMH in eastern Asia ca. 100 ka ago or even earlier. Here we report high-precision mass spectrometric U-series dating of intercalated flowstone samples from Huanglong Cave, a recently discovered Late Pleistocene hominin site in northern Hubei Province, central China. Systematic excavations there have led to the in situ discovery of seven hominin teeth and dozens of stone and bone artifacts. The U-series dates on localized thin flowstone formations bracket the hominin specimens between 81 and 101 ka, currently the most narrow time span for all AMH beyond 45 ka in China, if the assignment of the hominin teeth to modern Homo sapiens holds. Alternatively this study provides further evidence for the early presence of an AMH morphology in China, through either independent evolution of local archaic populations or their assimilation with incoming AMH. Along with recent dating results for hominin samples from Homo erectus to AMH, a new extended and continuous timeline for Chinese hominin fossils is taking shape, which warrants a reconstruction of human evolution, especially the origins of modern humans in eastern Asia.


Figure 1. Map showing the geographical location of Huanglong Cave.


Figure 2. Plane figure of the Huanglong Cave system (C), and sketch showing the depositional sequence at the cross-sections A (left) and B (right), schematic position of the hominin remains and positions of the samples for dating. The positions of the two cross-sections are shown in the middle-lower inset of Fig. 2C.