Ancient tools and bones discovered in China by a group of archaeologists indicate that the first humans left Africa and arrived in Asia sooner than previously thought.
This discovery implies that hominins left Africa earlier than indicated by the evidence from Dmanisi.
The discovery illustrates how our ancestors colonized East Asia more than two million years ago, effectively rewriting history as we know it.
The archaeological evidence was discovered at Shangchen, on the south Loess plateau, by a Chinese team led by Zhaoyu Zhu.
The oldest pieces date back to 2.12 million years ago and are about 270,000 years older than the bone remains and stone tools of Dmanisi, Georgia, which were previously considered as the oldest evidence of human evidence outside of Africa.
“Finding artifacts that you knew were around two million years old—and therefore the oldest outside Africa—was for me, as a palaeoanthropologist, really exciting,” says study coauthor Robin Dennell, a professor at the University of Exeter.
“More people have climbed Everest than found stone tools that old.”
“I’ve always said that once the Chinese researchers start looking for evidence on a similar scale as all the money spent in Africa, things will turn up!” exclaims Gerrit van den Bergh, a paleoanthropologist at the University of Wollongong who wasn’t involved with the study.
“It again shows how little we actually know.”
The artifacts include a notch, scrapers, hammerstones and pointed pieces.
All show signs of use: the stone, for example, had scales made intentionally.
Most were made out of quartzite and quartz that probably came from the Qinling Mountains at a distance of between 5 and 10 km.
Fragments of animal bones dating back to around 2.12 million years were also discovered by the archaeological team led by Zhaoyu Zhu.
The ancient stone tools were discovered in 11 different layers of soil that correspond to a warm and humid climate.
Others, found in six different layers, corresponded to colder and drier conditions.
In total, the 17 layers cover a period of almost one million years.
According to experts, this shows that the first types of humans occupied the Chinese plateau under different climatic conditions between 1.2 and 2.12 million years ago.
Featured Image Credit: Zhaoyu Zhu