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Homo Sapiens in Asia 100,000 Years Ago: Rethinking Prehistoric Timelines!

The discovery, in a Chinese cave, of 47 human teeth would prove the presence of Homo Sapiens in Asia as early as 100 thousand years ago, long before the time so far hypothesized for the migration from the African continent.

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Published in 
 · 3 Mar 2024

Sapiens were already present in Asia 80-120 thousand years ago: this is proven by some human teeth found in a limestone cave in southern China. It is normally believed that, at the time, our ancestors had not yet set foot outside Africa.

In 2015, a study published in Nature ( revealed the discovery of 47 human teeth within a 3-kilometer tunnel system in Daoxian County, located in China's Hunan province. Found alongside the remains of hyenas, giant pandas, and dozens of other animal species, this find suggests that our current understanding of Homo sapiens may need to be reconsidered.

In particular the absence of stone tools seems to indicate that man did not live in the caves, but that his remains were transported there by predators.

The small teeth, with narrow roots and flat crowns seem unmistakably Sapiens, as demonstrated by comparisons with ancient and modern human teeth.

Homo Sapiens teeth found in a 3-kilometer tunnel system in Daoxian county (in China's Hunan province
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Homo Sapiens teeth found in a 3-kilometer tunnel system in Daoxian county (in China's Hunan province)

Their dating, however, proved to be complex: since after 50 thousand years the traces of radioactive carbon in the finds vanish, the researchers dated the calcite deposits and the animal remains of the cave to deduce the age of the finds, between 120 and 80 thousand years.

The discovery refutes the widespread hypothesis according to which the oldest migrations of Sapiens out of Africa occurred between 60,000 and 50,000 years ago.

Older remains of modern man have already been found outside Africa (for example, 100,000-year-old finds have been found in Israel), but until that moment they were thought to concern minor failed migration attempts.

The impossibility of extracting DNA makes it difficult to understand the relationship between Daoxian Sapiens and modern Asians, who, however descend from the mixing between Sapiens and Neanderthals that occurred in Western Asia 55,000 - 60,000 years ago.

It is not even clear why the oldest Sapiens remains found in Europe date back to 45 thousand years ago. The harsh climate of Ice Age Europe and Neanderthal dominance may have delayed the arrival of our ancestors on the continent.

Despite the good chance that the Daoxian teeth are older than 80 thousand years ago, there is a detail that might raise some eyebrows: some finds are decayed, an uncommon feature in teeth older than 50 thousand years ago (but which could depend on the particular diet followed by Sapiens in tropical Asia).

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