The oldest human bones in Asia were unearthed in Laos in what researchers are calling the earliest skeletal evidence of an ancient migration to Asia.
The skull was found in the “Cave of the Monkeys” in Laos, Livescience reported. It is believed to support evidence that, after anatomically modern humans arose about 200,000 years ago in Africa, they dispersed and made their way to Asia. The oldest human bones in Asia now suggest that this migration occurred rapidly with humans moving into Southeast Asia at least 60,000 years ago.
The absence of fossil evidence had complicated this migration theory in part because human bones don’t fare well in the warm, tropical climate of the region. But the oldest human bones, a partial skull from Tam Pa Ling, are helping to fill this fossil gap, Livescience reported.
“Most surprising is the fact that we found anything at all,” researcher Laura Lynn Shackelford, a paleoanthropologist at the University of Illinois, told LiveScience. “Most people didn’t think we’d find anything in these caves, or even in the region where we’re working in mainland Southeast Asia. But we’re stubborn, gone where no one’s really looked before, or at least in almost a century.”
The team that found the oldest human bones in Asia presented their findings in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. They were the first to dig for ancient bones in Laos since the early 1900s, Science Daily reported. At that time, a team found skulls and skeletons of humans that were 16,000 years old — the newly found skull is between 46,000 and 60,000 years old.
“It’s a particularly old modern human fossil and it’s also a particularly old modern human for that region,” University of Illinois anthropologist Laura Shackelford said of the oldest human bones in Asia.