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Homo erectus in China 2.25 million years ago

In Januari 2000 a report was published at the University of Michigan concluding that all available evidence supports that humans first evolved in Africa about two million years ago, then spread to other regions of the world. Many details of subsequent human evolution over the period of the ice ages remain unclear. According to this study the 'Eve theory' of modern human origins, which states that modern human populations very recently arose as a new African species that replaced all other indigenous peoples such as Neanderthals, can be put to rest.

Recent finds in Anhui Province, eastern China, (Renzi Cave) is yielding animal bones and possible stone tools showing that Homo erectus may have established itself here 2.25 million years ago, more than 400,000 years earlier than previously thought.

A growing number of sites suggests great antiquity for humans and close ancestors in East Asia. The finds suggests an evolution of H. erectus in China parallel to that already observed in Africa.

Some 3,000 bones of animals from among nearly 60 species show that the Renzi Cave was open briefly between 2.5 and 2 million years ago. The most exciting evidence is about 50 stones and bones fractured to make flakes and scrapers. Early hominins apparently descended into the fissure to butcher the animals that fell in. The skeletons of a mastodon and a tapir, both victims of falls, were found together in the dig's lower levels. The mastodon bones lie piled along one wall, while the tapir remains seem to have been laid out for butchering; tools were found scattered about.

Between 9 and 4 million years ago, the convergence of the Indian and Eurasian continental plates gave rise to the Tibet Plateau, which caused the climates from East Africa to East Asia to become more seasonal and arid. Early hominins were ferociously migratory, and this led to the worldwide diaspora of our species, H. sapiens. Early humans repeatedly passed between Africa and Asia, and their movements correspond to those of other large mammals, including carnivores - early Homo and the dagger-toothed cat Megantereon.

Some of the Chinese jaw fragments seems to share some features with earliest Homo in East Africa - suggesting a direct link between Africa and East Asia about 2 million years ago. Chinese paleoanthropologists suggest a local Asian origin for H. erectus. Renzidong supplies this "Asian hypothesis" with tools as old as any fashioned by H. erectus in Africa.


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