April 30 (UPI) -- Paleontologists in China have unearthed a 300,000-year-old human skull, illuminating the variation and continuity among early Asian hominins.The hominin fossil record in East Asia is fragmentary and scattered. As a result, researchers have struggled to accurately characterize the nature of human evolution in the region.
The newly discovered fossil, a near complete skull found in southeastern China's Hualong Cave, demonstrate a level of continuity among the region's archaic humans not previously seen. The skull confirms the interpretation of East Asian human evolution as a complicated story of discontinuities and continuities.
Previous studies of human remains in east and southeast Asia have highlighted the diversity of the region. Last month, paleontologists reported the discovery of a new hominin species in the Philippines. In a separate study, researchers identified a previously unknown branch of Denisovan lineage.
Both studies suggest Southeast Asia was home to a variety of hominin experimentation. The latest study, published this week in the journal PNAS, suggests East Asia hosted similar levels of morphological variation.
The newly discovered 300,000-year-old skull is characterized by a low, wide brain case, as well as a pronounced brow. The skull's prominent mid-face is less prominent, with the bottom of the skull marked by an incipient chin.
"Along with the isolated teeth, the skull provides morphologically simple teeth with reduced or absent third molars," researchers wrote in their paper on the discovery. "The remains foreshadow changes evident with modern human emergence, but primarily reinforce Old World continuity through Middle to Late Pleistocene humans."