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Fossil find of ancient ape in China could yield clues of human origins

Sept. 5, 2013 at 5:12 PM   |   Comments

BEIJING, Sept. 5 (UPI) -- Paleontologists say a 6-million-year-old fossilized skull of a juvenile ape found in southwest China may help unravel the mystery of human origins.

The find in China's Yunnan province is only the second recovered cranium belonging to a juvenile ape that inhabited Eurasia in the Miocene era, research leader Ji Xueping said.

"The skull boasts great significance in research on our ancestors, as the time when the primate lived was close to that of the first humans, estimated at between 7 million to 5 million years ago," Ji, with the Yunnan Institute of Cultural Relics and Archaeology, said.

The fossil was dated as between 6.2 to 6.1 million years ago in the late Miocene, the youngest ancient primate ever found in Yunnan, China's state-run Xinhua news agency reported Thursday.

"Africa has found a number of fossils of ancient primates of that age, but such finds are scarce in Asia," Lu Qingwu of China's Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology said.

"From this perspective, the discovery is quite important. In recent years, some scholars proposed the theory that Asia, rather than Africa, is the cradle of human ancestry based on a series of recent finds," Lu said.

"Apparently there's a lot more work ahead to explore such possibility."

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