Tianyuan Cave:


Period: Upper Paleolithic - 40,000 – 10,000 BP
Region: East Asia
Carbon Dating: 34,430 years old
Location:
'Ain Ghazal - 39.66° North, 115.87° East
Country: China
mtDNA haplogroups: B
Y haplogroups: -

Zhoukoudian Cave The Zhoukoudian Cave Site [17] Homo erectus skull from China [18] Homo erectus skull from China [18]

The Paleolithic in China:

Like many areas of Eurasia south of the ice sheets, the first human inhabitants of China were an archaic human ancestor species called Homo erectus. The earliest archaeological evidence for their arrival are animal bones and stone tools dating to around 1.5 to 1.7 million years ago in the Nihewan Basin, not far from present-day Beijing [1]. Typical of the Middle Paleolithic, cobble tools were most common in the region, particularly Zhoukoudian Cave [2-3]. These tools were distinctly different from the Acheulean handaxes used by Homo ergaster in the West, and it is though that in East Asia, human ancestors made greater use of bamboo and other wood products, which have not been preserved.

Modern humans arrived in China as early as 80,000 years ago [4], although evidence is scare up to 50,000 to 60,000 years ago. It is likely that modern humans appeared here long before they moved into Europe. Upon the arrival of modern humans, stone blade tools appear in the region, and are found across a broad swathe of territory from the Yellow River to Mongolia and Siberia [5-6]. These blade tools spread across China and surrounding areas at great speed [7].

Some of the earliest examples of pottery making occurred in China between 19,000 and 20,000 years ago [8-9]. In the south of China, there is some evidence that wild rice was being collected and stored in caves, marking the earliest relationship humans had with rice and the precursor to rice domestication [10-12]. China’s rich environmental diversity put it in a prime position to be a major origin of agriculture in the millennia that follow the Paleolithic.

The individual from Tianyuan:

The individual in this sample was found at the Tianyuan Cave site, near the famous Zhoukoudian Cave in Northern China. Some 24 miles (40 kilometers) southwest of Beijing [13-14]. Carbon dating placed the individual at 34,430 years old, long after the established arrival of modern humans. The individual was intensively studied and it was found that they possessed some cranial features that were similar to some of the archaic Homo erectus species that had lived in the region thousands of years earlier. This individual was buried with among other animal bones, although there was no evidence of any other cultural artifacts, or modification of the animal bones [13].

Genetic analysis has shown that this individual was most closely-related to present day Chinese and Native Americans, and that they were part of a branch that diverged from other Eurasians prior to the colonization of Europe [15]. This was consistent with the archaeological evidence which shows modern humans having arrived in China up to 80,000 years ago. They were also not found to have any large amount of Denisovan or Neanderthal DNA, which would potentially correspond with other signs of archaic human ancestry.

This individual was determined to be male, but their Y haplogroup was not sequenced. Their mitochondrial haplogroup belonged to the B lineage, which is found in East Asia and likely dates back at least 40,000 years. It is ancestral to the R haplogroup [16].


References:

  1. Kukla G, An Z. 1989. Loess stratigraphy in central China. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology Palaeoecology 72: 203–225.
  2. Goldberg P, Weiner S, Bar-Yosef O, Xu Q, Liu J. 2001. Site formation processes at Zhoukoudian, China. J. Hum. Evol. 41: 483–530.
  3. Shen C, Gao X, Gao B, Granger DE. 2009. Age of Zhoukoudian Homo erectus determined with 26Al/10Be burial dating. Nature 458: 198–200.
  4. Dennell R. 2015. Homo sapiens in China 80,000 years ago. Nature 526: 647–648.
  5. Ningxia [Ningxia Kaogu Yanjiusuo]. 2003. Shuidonggou: The Report of 1980 Excavation. Beijing: Science. (In Chinese)
  6. Derevianko AP. 2011. The Upper Paleolithic in Africa and Eurasia and the Origin of Anatomically Modern Humans. Novosibirsk, Russia: Inst. Archaeol. Ethnogr. Press, Russ. Acad. Sci., Sib. Branch.
  7. Bar-Yosef O, Youping Wang Y. 2012. Paleolithic Archaeology in China. Annual Review of Anthropology 41: 319-335.
  8. MacNeish RS, Cunnar G, Zhao Z, Libby JG. 1998. Sino-Americam Jiangxi (PRC) Origin of Rice Project. Andover, MA: Andover Found. Archaeol. Res. 83.
  9. Wu Z, Zhang C, Goldberg P, Cohen D, Pan Y, et al. 2012. Early pottery at 20,000 years ago in Xianrendong Cave, China. Science 336: 1696–1700.
  10. Pei A. 2001. Notes on new advancements and revelations in the agricultural archaeology of early rice domestication in the Dongting Lake region. Antiquity 72: 878-885.
  11. Fuller DQ, Harvey E, Qin L. 2007. Presumed domestication? Evidence for wild rice cultivation and domestication in the fifth millennium BC of the Lower Yangtze region. Antiquity 81: 316-331.
  12. Liu L, Lee G-A, Jiang L, Zhang J. Evidence for the early beginning (c.9000 cal. BP) of rice domestication in China: a response. Holocene 17: 1059-1068.
  13. Shang H, Tong H, Zhang S, Chen F, Trinkaus E. 2007. An early modern human from Tianyuan Cave, Zhoukoudian, China. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 104: 6573–6578.
  14. Shang H, Trinkaus E. 2010. The Early Modern Human from Tianyuan Cave. Texas A&M University Press: College Station.
  15. Fu Q, et al. 2012. DNA analysis of an early modern human from Tianyuan Cave, China. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 2013;110: 2223–2227.
  16. Derenko M, et al. 2007. Phylogeographic analysis of mitochondrial DNA in northern Asian populations. Am J Hum Genet 81: 1025-1041.
  17. Zhoukoudian Cave Site: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Zhoukoudian_Upper_Cave.jpg
  18. Homo erectus skull from China: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Homo_erectus_Sangiran_17_IMG_5641_BMNH.jpg