1. Rediscovering Shiyu:
The archaeological site of Shiyu in northern China has provided evidence that modern humans were living in the region by 45,000 years ago, much earlier than previously thought. The site, which was excavated in 1963, holds a deep deposit of sediment and artefacts, including a single piece of hominin skull identified as Homo sapiens.
2. Re-excavation and Dating:
Francesco d’Errico and his colleagues re-excavated Shiyu and used optically stimulated luminescence and carbon dating to determine the age of the sediment and animal bones. The hominin layer was found to be approximately 44,600 years old, confirming the earlier presence of modern humans in northern China.
3. Arrival of Modern Humans:
The new study suggests that modern humans had reached northern China about 45,000 years ago, pushing back our species’ arrival in the region by about 5000 years. While some researchers have claimed an earlier arrival, d’Errico points out that much of the evidence for such claims has been critiqued.
4. Multiple Routes and Cultural Exchanges:
As modern humans spread out into Asia from Africa, they may have utilized multiple routes, including a northern route through Siberia and Mongolia. They encountered other hominins, such as Neanderthals and Denisovans, and there is evidence of genetic and cultural exchanges. The artefacts at Shiyu include some that resemble archaic human tools, and there is evidence of long-distance exchanges, such as the presence of obsidian traced to sites 800-1000 kilometers away.
5. Implications and Conclusions:
The findings from the re-excavation of Shiyu are significant as they contribute to a better understanding of the early presence of modern humans in northern China and the potential routes they may have taken as they spread into Asia. This study has important implications for our understanding of human migration, interaction with other hominin species, and the development of cultures in the region. Further research and exploration of ancient sites in Asia are needed to continue unraveling the complex history of human presence in the region.
In conclusion, the discovery that humans first reached China thousands of years earlier than previously believed is a significant and groundbreaking finding that challenges our understanding of early human migration patterns. This revelation not only sheds new light on the history of human civilization, but also prompts reevaluation of archaeological evidence and further exploration into the origins and dispersal of early human populations. The study of early human migration continues to uncover new and unexpected discoveries, reshaping our understanding of the ancient world and enriching our knowledge of human history.