Chinese remains predate earliest known

Sept. 29, 2004 at 12:57 PM

ARLINGTON, Va., Sept. 29 (UPI) -- Human remains found in northern China predate those previously thought the oldest by 340,000 years, the Smithsonian Institution reported Wednesday.

The latest find indicates early humans lived in northern China about 1.66 million years ago, nearly 340,000 years before previous estimates placed them there, surviving in a very hostile environment.

The research team, including Richard Potts of the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History, reported the results of excavating four layers of sediments at Majuangou in northern China. All the layers contained indisputable stone tools apparently made by early humans, known to researchers as "hominins."

"Because the oldest layers show humans made tools and extracted bone marrow like early people in Africa, the Majuangou evidence suggests strong connections with African hominins and their rapid spread across Asia," Potts said.

In the three deepest layers, the stone tools are made of rocks unlike those in the surrounding sediment, indicating the Asia humans transported the rocks from another place.

The research appears in the current edition of the journal Nature.

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