Scientists are currently busy analyzing the teeth of a child who once lived in East Asia between 104,000 and 200,000 years ago, and these particular remains contain the oldest set of human teeth that have ever been found here.
According to Science News, the child in question died before their seventh birthday, and left behind seven teeth in their fossilized upper jaw — teeth that were still growing when the child died. When scientists used x-rays to study the child’s teeth, they discovered that the very first molar, which normally comes in at around six years of age, had pushed through the child’s gums right before their early death.
The root of this molar was also found to be nearly complete at the time, which demonstrated that the development of the molar of this child would have been strikingly similar to that of modern children living today. However, other tooth roots that were discovered in the child’s fossilized jaw had grown much quicker than they would in children today.
But despite this, paleoanthropologist Song Xing — of the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing — has stated that, despite living between 104,000 and 200,000 years ago, this East Asian child’s dental growth would have been much the same as it is in children of the current era.
An ancient child with a mysterious evolutionary background may represent the oldest known case of humanlike tooth growth in East Asia. https://t.co/wJFc7zGAST
— Science News (@ScienceNews) January 16, 2019
Because of the rate of growth in this earlier specimen, scientists believe that the youngster may have been part of the East Asian Homo group — and would have normally had a fairly long life span. However, identifying the biological group that this child definitively belonged to may prove difficult, as the child in question has such a mix of features that it would be fairly impossible to determine its exact origin.
For instance, the large teeth and braincase of the child are remarkably similar to what scientists would expect to find in both Homo erectus and Neanderthal features, but some of the teeth look more like they belong to Homo sapiens. But besides these three species, there is also the possibility that the child may have belonged to the Denisovan group, according to Xing and her colleagues.
But whatever species this child belonged to, paleoanthropologist and study coauthor Debbie Guatelli-Steinberg — of Ohio State University in Columbus — stated that this is the first time that scientists have been able to study such ancient fossilized teeth from within the Homo population of East Asia.
“Modern humans develop slowly, and at least for the first 6.5 years of life, the dentition of the Xujiayao individual suggests that it also developed slowly.”
The new study concerning these findings has been published in Science Advances.