Years in Print:
Articles of Interest
An updated age for the Xujiayao hominin from the Nihewan Basin, North China: Implications for Middle Pleistocene human evolution in East Asia
Journal: Journal of Human Evolution | Year: 2017
The Xujiayao site in the Nihewan Basin (North China) is one of the most important Paleolithic sites in East Asia. Twenty Homo fossils, which were previously assigned to an archaic Homo sapiens group, have been excavated along with more than 30,000 lithic artifacts and ∼5000 mammalian fossil specimens. Dating of the Xujiayao hominin has been pursued since its excavation in the 1970s, but its age has remained controversial because of limitations of the dating techniques that have been applied to available materials. Here, we report new ages for the Xujiayao hominin based on combined electron spin resonance (ESR) dating of quartz in the sediments and high-resolution magnetostratigraphy of the fluvio-lacustrine sequence. The magnetostratigraphy suggests that the upper Matuyama and Brunhes polarity chrons are recorded at Xujiayao. The ESR dating results indicate a pooled average age of 260–370 ka for the Homo-bearing layer, which is consistent with its position within the middle Brunhes normal polarity chron indicated by magnetostratigraphy. This age estimate makes the Xujiayao hominin among the oldest mid-Pleistocene hominins with derived Neanderthal traits in East Asia. This age is consistent with the time when early Denisovans, a sister group of Neanderthals, appeared and colonized eastern Eurasia. Our updated age and the Neanderthal-like traits of the Xujiayao Homo fossils, particularly the Denisovan-like molar teeth, make it possible that the Xujiayao hominin could represent an early Denisovan.
Peoples: | Places: East Asia | Topics: Nihewan Basin and Xujiayao site | DNA Type: -
Journal: Journal of Human Evolution | Year: 2017
The temporal bone discovered in the 1960s from the Darra-i-Kur cave in Afghanistan is often cited as one of the very few Pleistocene human fossils from Central Asia. Here we report the first direct radiocarbon date for the specimen and the genetic analyses of DNA extracted and sequenced from two areas of the bone. The new radiocarbon determination places the find to ∼4500 cal BP (∼2500 BCE) contradicting an assumed Palaeolithic age of ∼30,000 years, as originally suggested. The DNA retrieved from the specimen originates from a male individual who carried mitochondrial DNA of the modern human type. The petrous part yielded more endogenous ancient DNA molecules than the squamous part of the same bone. Molecular dating of the Darra-i-Kur mitochondrial DNA sequence corroborates the radiocarbon date and suggests that the specimen is younger than previously thought. Taken together, the results consolidate the fact that the human bone is not associated with the Pleistocene-age deposits of Darra-i-Kur; instead it is intrusive, possibly re-deposited from upper levels dating to much later periods (Neolithic). Despite its Holocene age, the Darra-i-Kur specimen is, so far, the first and only ancient human from Afghanistan whose DNA has been sequenced.
Peoples: | Places: Afghanistan and Darra-i-Kur cave | Topics: Neolithic and Palaeolithic | DNA Type: Ancient DNA and mtDNA
The environmental context for the origins of modern human diversity: A synthesis of regional variability in African climate 150,000 – 30,000 years ago
Journal: Journal of Human Evolution | Year: 2012
We synthesize African paleoclimate from 150 to 30 ka (thousand years ago) using 85 diverse datasets at a regional scale, testing for coherence with North Atlantic glacial/interglacial phases and northern and southern hemisphere insolation cycles. Two major determinants of circum-African climate variability over this time period are supported by principal components analysis: North Atlantic sea surface temperature (SST) variations and local insolation maxima. North Atlantic SSTs correlated with the variability found in most circum-African SST records, whereas the variability of the majority of terrestrial temperature and precipitation records is explained by local insolation maxima, particularly at times when solar radiation was intense and highly variable (e.g., 15075 ka). We demonstrate that climates varied with latitude, such that periods of relatively increased aridity or humidity were asynchronous across the northern, eastern, tropical and southern portions of Africa. Comparisons of the archaeological, fossil, or genetic records with generalized patterns of environmental change based solely on northern hemisphere glacial/interglacial cycles are therefore imprecise. We compare our refined climatic framework to a database of 64 radiometrically-dated paleoanthropological sites to test hypotheses of demographic response to climatic change among African hominin populations during the 15030 ka interval. We argue that at a continental scale, population and climate changes were asynchronous and likely occurred under different regimes of climate forcing, creating alternating opportunities for migration into adjacent regions. Our results suggest little relation between large scale demographic and climate change in southern Africa during this time span, but strongly support the hypothesis of hominin occupation of the Sahara during discrete humid intervals ?135115 ka and 10575 ka. Hominin populations in equatorial and eastern Africa may have been buffered from the extremes of climate change by locally steep altitudinal and rainfall gradients and the complex and variable effects of increased aridity on human habitat suitability in the tropics. Our data are consistent with hominin migrations out of Africa through varying exit points from ?14080 ka.
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