Unearthed skull may prove Chinese not African descedants

  • The fossilised skull, named Xuchang Man, is thought to date back 80,000 to 100,000 years.

Beijing - Jan 24, Chinese archaeologists are hailing their biggest discovery in almost 80 years after unearthing a skull in the central province of Henan, which is thought to date back 80,000 to 100,000 years.

The almost complete skull, named Xuchang Man after the city where it was found, comprises 16 fragments and has protruding eyebrows and a small forehead. It contains a rare fossilised membrane that archaeologists hope will reveal important details about the nervous system of the ancients and settle a contentious academic debate about whether most of China's 1.3 billion people are mainly indigenous, descended from African migrants or intermixed.

"It will shed light on a critical period of human evolution," Shan Jixiang, director of China's cultural heritage administration, said.

Most palaeoanthropologists believe all modern Homo sapiens are descended primarily from people who came out of Africa up to about 60,000 years ago. Another view is that there was significant interbreeding in Europe and elsewhere with Neanderthals.

Howerver, some Chinese scientists make a stronger link of modern Chinese with Peking man which is found in 1929 believed to date back 250,000 to 500,000 years, saying there is more regional continuity than western scientists believe.

Foreign scientists say the potential of the find is enormous. "This is a crucial period in human evolutionary history, but we know almost nothing about it. Anything coming from that period is of great interest to the outside world," said Dennis Etler, a palaeoanthropologist at Cabrillo College, California. "This sounds like a breakthrough."

The skull fragments are now at the China Academy Of Sciences in Beijing, where they will be reconstructed and analysed. If there is any residual organic material, DNA analysis may be possible.


No comments: