Ancient Teeth Discovered In China Are 80,000-Years-Old – Challenge Human Evolution And Migration Theory

A set of ancient teeth discovered in China have been found to be about 80,000-years-old.

Scientists in Southern China discovered human teeth, which have been found to be at least 80,000-years-old. This means that the teeth have been there for more than 20,000 years before modern humans were believed to have left their widely acknowledged origin in Africa and begun their long march of evolution across the world.

The 47 teeth were discovered in Fuyan Cave, a limestone cavern in Daoxian, in China’s Hunan province. Interestingly, while these ancient teeth may indicate that modern humans first migrated from Africa to Asia 80,000 to 120,000 years ago, it might also mean humans might have evolved out of Africa as well. This essentially questions the most basic models of evolution that have been commonly accepted, said María Martinón-Torres, a forensic anthropologist at University College London.

“We need to re-think our models. Maybe there was more than one Out of Africa migration.”

The teeth indicate the presence of humans or Homo sapiens at a location that, according to standard archaeological theory, shouldn’t have been there in the first place. Moreover, the discovery of these teeth in China indicates the presence of humans in the area, at least 20,000 years earlier than any previous research had indicated.

The most commonly accepted theory of human migration is called “Out of Africa,” because the available scientific data strongly suggests that modern humans originated in Africa about 70,000 to 80,000 years ago, reported The Christian Science Monitor. Thereafter, with great struggle, these relatively primitive relatives to modern day humans successfully completed their migration to the rest of the world in a single huge wave between 50,000 to 70,000 years ago.

However, the presence of the ancient teeth in China not just challenge the theory in terms of timing, but the very core idea of evolution of humans in Africa as well, said one of the study’s lead researchers, Liu Wu, from China’s Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology (IVPP).

“The fossils reveal that 80,000 years ago, the first modern humans appeared somewhere in southern China. We believe that southern China probably was a central area for modern evolution. Though the research hasn’t yet explored where the Daoxian people were from — and whether they originated from Africa or China, I am inclined to believe they evolved from local ancient humans, suggesting that human evolution didn’t happen all at once.”

Interestingly, there was nothing besides the teeth in the caves to suggest that the early humans had settled there. However, there were preserved fossils of mammals. Since there were no stone tools in the cave where the teeth were discovered, scientists believe that the humans never actually lived there. The teeth could have been left there by predators, since they can’t consume them.

Ancient Teeth China

Owing to the extent of aging of the teeth, scientists had to rely on the surrounding calcite deposits and human remains in the cave to estimate their age, reported CNN. Speaking about the teeth, Martinón­-Torres added the following.

“They really look modern, but they are very old. And they are very old also particularly when we take into account that they were found in China. Teeth can provide a lot of information about the species we belonged to because their size and morphology are highly inheritable. They can also provide information about diet, about pathologies suffered from these groups and about culture.”

The ancient teeth also suggest there may have been a struggle between Neanderthals and Homo sapiens over territory, which the former had occupied for a long time. These ancient teeth discovered in China appear to have raised a lot of questions than what they have answered. The scientists are now conducting DNA analysis on the teeth to get more information.

[Image Credit | S. Xing and X-J. Wu / Getty Images]