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The Homo sapiens Cave hominin site of Mulan Mountain, Jiangzhou District, Chongzuo, Guangxi with emphasis on its age
Update time: 11/10/2009
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JIN ChangZhu1†, PAN WenShi2, ZHANG YingQi1, CAI YanJun3, XU QinQi1, TANG ZhiLu1,  WANG Wei4, WANG Yuan1, LIU JinYi1, QIN DaGong2, R. Lawrence Edwards5 & CHENG Hai5
1 Key Laboratory of Evolutionary Systematics of Vertebrates, Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology (IVPP), Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100044, China;
2 School of Life Sciences, Peking University, Beijing 100871, China;
3 Institute of Earth Environment, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Xi’an 710075, China;
4 Natural History Museum of Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, Nanning 530012, China;
5 Department of Geology and Geophysics, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN 55455, USA
    One of the most hotly debated and frontal issues in paleoanthropology focuses on the origins of mod-ern humans. Recently, an incomplete hominin mandible with a distinctly weaker mental protuberance than modern human and a great variety of coexisting fossil mammals were unearthed from the Homo sapiens Cave of Mulan Mountain, Chongzuo, Guangxi. The mammalian fauna from the Homo sapiens Cave characterized by the combination of Elephas kiangnanensis, first occurring Elephas maixmus, and Megatapirus augustus, and strikingly different from the Early Pleistocene Gigantopithecus fauna and the Middle Pleistocene Ailuropoda-Stogodon fauna of South China could be regarded as an early representive of the typical Asian elephant fauna. Faunal analysis, biostratigraphic correlation, and, most importantly, U-series dating all consistently support an estimate of ca 110 ka for the age of the fossil Homo sapiens and coexisting mammalian fauna, that is, the early Late Pleistocene. The fauna is mainly made up of tropical-subtropical elements, but grassland elements have a much greater variety than forest elements, which probably indicates a drier climate at that time. This discovery of early Homo sapiens at the Mulan Mountain will play a significant role in the study of the origin and its envi-ronmental background of modern humans.
Homo sapiens Cave, Chongzuo, Guangxi, Homo sapiens, Asian elephant fauna, early Late Pleistocene, origin of modern humans
    The origin of modern humans is currently one of the hottest scientific subjects. Since the introduction of Mo-lecular Anthropology into the field of human origin in 1987, the study of human evolution has been focused on a brand new issue: the origin of modern humans. Based on mitochondrial DNA analysis, Cann (1987) argued that all modern humans were descendants of a human population living in Africa about 200―100 ka ago. Some Chinese researchers also inferred from the study of genome variation that the direct ancestor of Chinese were immigrants that came to China ca. 60 ka ago. However, these arguments (representatives of the re-placement theory) contrast markedly with the evidence from the hominin fossils and Paleolithic remains dis-covered in China, and also that from the paleoenviron-mental study. In recent years, paleoanthropologists such as Xinzhi Wu and others have proposed a “Continuity with hybridization” model for the origin of modern hu-mans in China, which is also the Asian context of the Multiregional Continuity Model, because the evidence of physical anthropology from the chronologically con-tinuous hominin fossil records of China supports the argument that the modern humans of China are descen-dants of the early hominins, like Peking Man, who had colonized the area, but already carried some foreign genes. Presently, the vigorous debate between the Out of Africa Model and the Multiregional Continuity Model is still ongoing and unsettled.
    Currently, much more attention is paid to the fossil hominin records of ca. 100 ka ago, because it is a critical time for the radiations of modern humans. In recent years, quite a few Homo sapiens sites of ca. 100 ka old have been successively discovered in East Asia, such as Huanglong Cave of Yunxi, Hubei, Xinglong Cave of Fengjie, Chongqing, Leiping Cave of Wushan, Chongqing, Migong Cave, Lingjing of Xuchang, Henan, and Hang Hum Cave, Lang Trang Cave, and Duoi U’Oi Cave of northern Vietnam, and so on, which have provided fundamental information for the study of human evolution during Late Pleistocene in East Asia, and espe-cially for the origin of modern humans. Nevertheless, no decisive material with undoubtedly convincing morpho-logical features that can settle the ongoing debate on the origin of modern humans has been found from these sites, which has been a bottleneck when discussing the East Asian origin of modern humans.
    Recently, researchers of the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology, Chinese Academy of Sciences and Chongzuo Biodiversity Research Center, Peking University found a hominin site at Mulan Moun-tain, Chongzuo, Guangxi. Two hominin teeth, one hominin mandible and a large variety of coexisting mammalian fossils were unearthed. During the extensive investigation around the Mulan Mountain, a total of five fossil bearing caves with different elevations were also discovered. Two of them yield Gigantopithecus, and one yield Homo sapiens, which is named as the Homo sapiens Cave. Faunal analysis and U-series dating show that the age of the hominin site is early Late Pleistocene. The site is significant not only for the study of human evolution in China and East Asia, but also for the origin of modern humans in China.
    This paper was published in Chinese Science Bulletin | November 2009 | vol. 54 | no. 21
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