The finding challenges the "Out-of-Africa" hypothesis of modern human origins, according to which about 100,000 years ago modern humans originated in Africa, migrated to other continents, and replaced populations of archaic humans across the globe.
The finding comes from a large-scale excavation launched in the Qingjiang River Valley in 1980s when construction began on a rangeof hydropower stations on the Qingjiang River, a fellow researcher with the Hubei Provincial Institute of Cultural Relics and Archaeology.
Archaeologists discovered three human tooth fossils in one mountain cave in Mazhaping Village, in the Gaoping Township of Jianshi County, western Hubei Province, and found pieces of lithictechnology and evidence of fire usage in Minor Cave in Banxia. There were similar findings in Nianyu Mountain and in Zhadong Cavein Banxia, all in Changyang Prefecture of the Qiangjiang River Valley.
A special research panel named the Jianshi Man research team has been set up to analyze the findings.
Zheng Shaohua, a member of the Jianshi man research team from the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, confirmed the tooth fossils belonged to humans dating back between 2.15 and 1.95 million yearsago.
The archaeologists also found fossils of bone implements in thecultural strata at the ruins where the human tooth fossils were discovered.
The fossilized bone implements bear traces of human beating, testifying that humans, not apes, lived inside the mountain cave, said Qiu Zhanxiang, another member on the Jianshi Man research team.
The pieces of lithic technology and traces of human fire usage found in Minor Cave in Banxia were said to date back 130,000 years,the ruins of human fire usage in Nianyu Mountain were dated as 120,000 years or 90,000 years old, while pieces of lithic technology and traces of fire usage found in Zhadong Cave in Banxia, were dated as 27,000 years old, said Professor Zheng.
Before these latest archaeological findings, Chinese archaeologists had found fossils of what is now known as ChangyangMan in 1957 under the leadership of renowned Chinese paleoanthropologist Jia Lanpo. Changyang Man represents early Homosapiens dating back 200,000 years.
The latest archaeological findings together with the earlier discovery of Changyang Man all prove there was continuity in Homo sapiens' development in China, said Liu Qingzhu, head of the Archaeology Institute of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences."They are also of great significance to research on Paleolithic era in China and East Asia, and theories regarding multiple origins of mankind," said Liu.