Human remains from zhirendong, South China, and modern human emergence in East Asia

Wu Liu, Chang Zhu Jina, Ying Qi Zhang, Yan Jun Cai, Song Xing, Xiu Jie Wu, Hai Cheng, R. Lawrence Edwards, Wen Shi Pan, Da Gong Qin, Zhi Sheng An, Erik Trinkaus, Xin Zhi Wu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

188 Scopus citations


The 2007 discovery of fragmentary human remains (two molars and an anterior mandible) at Zhirendong (Zhiren Cave) in South China provides insight in the processes involved in the establishment of modern humans in eastern Eurasia. The human remains are securely dated by U-series on overlying flowstones and a rich associated faunal sample to the initial Late Pleistocene, >100 kya. As such, they are the oldest modern human fossils in East Asia and predate by >60,000 y the oldest previously known modern human remains in the region. The Zhiren 3 mandible in particular presents derived modern human anterior symphyseal morphology, with a projecting tuber symphyseos, distinct mental fossae, modest lateral tubercles, and a vertical symphysis; it is separate from any known late archaic human mandible. However, it also exhibits a lingual symphyseal morphology and corpus robustness that place it close to later Pleistocene archaic humans. The age and morphology of the Zhiren Cave human remains support a modern human emergence scenario for East Asia involving dispersal with assimilation or populational continuity with gene flow. It also places the Late Pleistocene Asian emergence of modern humans in a pre-Upper Paleolithic context and raises issues concerning the long-term Late Pleistocene coexistence of late archaic and early modern humans across Eurasia.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)19201-19206
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number45
StatePublished - Nov 9 2010


  • Archaic humans
  • Chin
  • Late Pleistocene
  • Mandible
  • Teeth


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