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Six million year old ape cranium

Six million year old ape cranium discovered in China

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In the last few months, China has begun intensively investigating questions relating to human origins in an effort to discover whether their nation has been one of the cradles of civilizations. This was spurred on by the proposal made by a few scholars that Asia is the cradle of the first humans and not Africa. Now a new discovery may go some way in unravelling the mystery.

In the province of Yunnan, Chinese archaeologists have discovered a six million year old cranium of a juvenile ape , a primate that lived in the period when the first humans appeared which is about 7 to 5 million years ago (during the Miocene period). It is believed that the finding will help palaeontologists in their search of human origins.

While such fossils are common in Africa, it is something rare in Asia. The skull is well preserved and most of the facial bones have been maintained, which can give information about the morphology and growth of Lufengpithecus, a name given to apes found in different areas of Asia since 1950 dating back between 11 and 7 million years ago.

It is important to note that a debate has started between archaeologists and researchers in different continents to try to establish their countries as the origin of humans. A similar effort has been made in Australia by Steven and Evan Strong suggesting that the first humans actually started in Australia rather than Africa.

While the evidence in Australia is not yet enough to support such a theory, in China several findings over the last few years have given some validity to their claims. Another possibility is that humanity did not just begin in one place, but that there were in fact multiple ‘cradles of mankind’, which may have existed in different isolated places all around Earth.

By John Black

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