June 27, 2016

37,000 year old skull from Malaysia related to indigenous people of Borneo

Front. Ecol. Evol., 27 June 2016 | http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fevo.2016.00075

Deep Skull from Niah Cave and the Pleistocene Peopling of Southeast Asia

Darren Curnoe et al.

The Deep Skull from Niah Cave in Sarawak (Malaysia) is the oldest anatomically modern human recovered from island Southeast Asia. For more than 50 years its relevance to tracing the prehistory of the region has been controversial. The most widely held view, originating with Brothwell's 1960 description and analysis, is that the Niah individual is related to Indigenous Australians. Here we undertake a new assessment of the Deep Skull and consider its bearing on this question. In doing so, we provide a new and comprehensive description of the cranium including a reassessment of its ontogenetic age, sex, morphology, and affinities. We conclude that this individual was most likely to have been of advanced age and female, rather than an adolescent male as originally proposed. The morphological evidence strongly suggests that the Deep Skull samples the earliest modern humans to have settled Borneo, most likely originating on mainland East Asia. We also show that the affinities of the specimen are most likely to be with the contemporary indigenous people of Borneo, although, similarities to the population sometimes referred to as Philippine Negritos cannot be excluded. Finally, our research suggests that the widely supported “two-layer” hypothesis for the Pleistocene peopling of East/Southeast Asia is unlikely to apply to the earliest inhabitants of Borneo, in-line with the picture emerging from genetic studies of the contemporary people from the region.

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14 comments:

andrew said...

"The morphological evidence strongly suggests that the Deep Skull samples the earliest modern humans to have settled Borneo, most likely originating on mainland East Asia."

Morphological evidence can point to an origin on mainland East Asia, but I can't imagine how it could possible tell you if they were the earliest modern humans to have settled Borneo.

terryt said...

"we further gained the overall impression that the Deep Skull shows strongest affinities to recent East Asian (sometimes Southeast Asian) populations rather than to New Guinean, Australian or Tasmanian samples".

For which the only explanation is that the first people to Australia did not arrive via Borneo. That seems unlikely to me as a crossing of the Wallace Line from Java would have been far more difficult than any crossing to Borneo, which may not have involved crossing water at all. The conclusions certainly point to the Deep Skull as being part of a later migration from mainland China and therefore make it unlikely to belong to have belonged to 'the earliest modern humans to have settled Borneo'.

William Fleming said...

I enjoy reading the articles and thoughtful comments here. I would like to ask a question. Did the Asian/Mongoloid race phenotype (Chinese, Vietnamese, etc) originate in the northern China region or in the Southeast Asia region? I am aware that there are skulls with Caucasian features discovered near Beijing,but with their features, am uncertain if they are paleomongoloid.
This Deep Skull appears to show continuity with the present day Southeast Asian phenotype. Can any of the readers provide a comment that will help explain the origins of Siberians, Southeast Asians, Northern Chinese/koreans and japanese? Where does the Beringia and North America paleomongoloid people fit into the timeline and are they related+
It is my theory the Caucasian phenotype asians are displaced toward the west after Beringia begins to flood. Eastern side Berigians would have moved east.
It is my theory that Northern Mongoloid established control of china and that over the millenia Southeast Asian type people moved north to intermarriage and create the average broadly found features we find in China, Taiwan, and southeast asia.
Would someone clarify this for me along with the timelines it is believed to have occured.
Thank you For your insight.

eurologist said...

"The conclusions certainly point to the Deep Skull as being part of a later migration from mainland China and therefore make it unlikely to belong to have belonged to 'the earliest modern humans to have settled Borneo'"

Terry, I agree. The dates cited are 45 - 39 kya, and "most likely 37 kya." That is way more recent than the first settling of this region, which at the minimum dates to 55 kya, or in some areas, may predate the Toba eruption.

terryt said...

In spite of much opposition to the idea I have always regarded the development of the EDAR37a gene as a proxy for the development of the East Asian phenotype.

http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp/2013/02/is-girls-generation-the-outcome-of-the-pleistocene-mind/#.V4RJBzfr0dk

You will see here that the mutation developed somewhere in the region of Northern China/Tibet/Inner Mongolia. The idea it developed in SE Asia and became more pronounced as people moved north has never made the slightest bit of sense to me. Especially as what evidence we do have is that the Mongoloid phenotype replaced the earlier Australoid/Papuan phenotype in SE Asia. SE Asians today are basically a mixture of the older SE Asian phenotype with the later Mongoloid phenotype arrivals. Native Americans are a mix of the Mongoloid phenotype with a sort of 'Caucasian' phenotype that had moved east as demonstrated by MA-1.

http://dienekes.blogspot.co.nz/2013/11/ancient-dna-from-upper-paleolithic-lake.html

Gregory76 said...

William,
The Mongoloid phenotype is an adaptation to cold. It could only have originated in the Arctic or subarctic regions, as indicated by the fact that it is not found in areas to the west of Central Asia and East Asia until relatively recently. It could have originated in Tibet, which is probably not cold enough and in any case has not been settled by humans long enough. It could not have originated in Southeast Asia.
Eskimos have it because they are from the Arctic. Amerinds have a watered-down version of the Mongoloid phenotype, which indicates that they did not spend as much time in the far north as the true Mongoloids did.

terryt said...

"The Mongoloid phenotype is an adaptation to cold".

Not necessarily. I think it just as likely to be an adaptation to high light levels, such as snow or high altitude desert/semi-desert. They eye-fold is to my mind certainly an adaptation to high light reflection. I remember the first time I was ever in high altitude snow. I found the reflected light in my eyes to be a huge problem. Of course most people these days wear shades in that environment.

The region where the EDAR370A mutation is said to have evolved fits that scenario exactly.

terryt said...

Sorry. Another point:

"Amerinds have a watered-down version of the Mongoloid phenotype, which indicates that they did not spend as much time in the far north as the true Mongoloids did".

On the contrary, the presence of the MA-1 like genetic element indicates the Mongoloid phenotype has been watered down by some level of admixture with a non-Mongoloid population.

Gregory76 said...

I said:
The Mongoloid phenotype is an adaptation to cold.
Terry replied:
"Not necessarily. I think it just as likely to be an adaptation to high light levels, such as snow or high altitude desert/semi-desert. They eye-fold is to my mind certainly an adaptation to high light reflection."
I reply:
There is more to the Mongoloid phenotype than the epicanthic fold, including a thickset body, a round face, a tendency to a short head, relatively short limbs, extremities and digits, a small nose, etc. That collection of features is well-known as an adaptation to cold: the closer one approximates a sphere the lower the ratio of surface area to volume, and so the less the opportunity for heat loss.

I said:
Amerinds have a watered-down version of the Mongoloid phenotype, which indicates that they did not spend as much time in the far north as the true Mongoloids did.
Terry replied:
"On the contrary, the presence of the MA-1 like genetic element indicates the Mongoloid phenotype has been watered down by some level of admixture with a non-Mongoloid population."
I reply:
Yes, there does seem to be a non-Mongoloid element among the Amerinds, but I do not think that all of the non-Mongoloid features among the Amerinds can be accounted for by mixture. For example, most of the Amerinds on the west side of the Americas are brachycephalic and more Mongoloid than those on the eastern side of the Americas, who probably have much non-Mongoloid blood, but it is still the case that most of those on the western side, especially south of the Nadene, lack on epicanthic fold, and that is probably not the result of meeting non-Mongoloids all over that area.

terryt said...

"There is more to the Mongoloid phenotype than the epicanthic fold, including a thickset body, a round face, a tendency to a short head, relatively short limbs, extremities and digits, a small nose, etc. That collection of features is well-known as an adaptation to cold"

Are you suggesting that high altitude is not necessarily cold?

"most of the Amerinds on the west side of the Americas are brachycephalic and more Mongoloid than those on the eastern side of the Americas, who probably have much non-Mongoloid blood"

That could easily be an indication that the people on the western side tend to be mainly people from a later wave. I would expect from the small evidence MA-1 provides that the movement to America was not instantaneous. The vanguard could well have been less Mongoloid than later elements of the stream. Later movements would not have been able to enter as far as the first elements. That is supported somewhat by the Inuit people who are probably the most recent arrivals and also the most Mongoloid.

"it is still the case that most of those on the western side, especially south of the Nadene, lack on epicanthic fold, and that is probably not the result of meeting non-Mongoloids all over that area".

I would expect elements of non-Mongoids to have survived quite widely.

terryt said...

A few further remarks concerning human arrival in America.

I am reasonably sure the movement into the previously uninhabited region would have been similar to that of the Austronesians into the previously uninhabited islands of the Pacific. The islands mean the immigrant population has tended to form discrete populations on each island group, which some will say is different from any migration into continuous land. However even in the latter case the immigrants would tend to concentrate originally on the most desirable habitat 'islands'.

In the case of the Austronesians we see the most distant islands (New Zealand, Easter Island and Hawai'i) are primarily mt-DNA B4a1a1a and Y-DNA C1b2a1a, both originally from island SE Asia. I'll turn to the minority haplotypes soon but the above are the most westerly in origin. B4a1a1a has its origin in the Philippines or, possibly, from Taiwan: very much associated with the Austronesian origin. C1b2a2 originated in southern Wallacea with probably a later presence in western New Guinea.

As a result it appears that the early Austronesian haplotypes made it all the way to the extremities of the Austronesian expansion. But along the way the movement apparently picked up long-established haplotypes from New Guinea and Melanesia. In fact these picked up Y-DNAs especially have come to dominate the region between island SE Asia and the Polynesian extremity. B4a1a1a is common right through the Solomon islands but C1b2a2 is virtually absent. Melanesian Y-DNA lines such as M1, M2 and K2b1a have reached as far as Fiji and Tonga. It is apparent that these Melanesian Y-DNA lines were part of a later movement that has replaced the Y-DNA C. Yet all the evidence indicates that such a migration is almost simultaneous with the original Austronesian expansion. The expansion was complicated.

I suspect that closer examination of the distribution of American haplotypes will reveal a possible sequence of their arrival.

Gregory76 said...

I said: "There is more to the Mongoloid phenotype than the epicanthic fold,....That collection of features is well-known as an adaptation to cold"

Terry replied: "Are you suggesting that high altitude is not necessarily cold?"

I reply: No: they could result from high altitude, if it produced cold enough conditions. But climate maps seem to indicate that Tibet is not quite as cold as Mongolia and especially Siberia. Further, as you indicated in an earlier post, Terry, Tibet has not been inhabited very long. And the Tibetan phenotype is less Mongoloid than the phenotypes of Mongolia and eastern Siberia. So those more extremely Mongoloid phenotypes did not evolve there.

"most of the Amerinds on the west side of the Americas are brachycephalic and more Mongoloid than those on the eastern side of the Americas, who probably have much non-Mongoloid blood"

Terry said: "That could easily be an indication that the people on the western side tend to be mainly people from a later wave."

I reply: Yes, I am a strong believer in multiple waves of settlement in the Americas.

I said: "it is still the case that most of those on the western side, especially south of the Nadene, lack on epicanthic fold, and that is probably not the result of meeting non-Mongoloids all over that area".

Terry replied: I would expect elements of non-Mongoids to have survived quite widely.

I reply: But when we postulated multiple waves of settlement we do not have to attribute all phenotypical differences to different ratios of Mongoloid and non-Mongoloid mixture: some of the differences may have already been found in the different wave of invaders.

terryt said...

Thanks for your contribution Gregory76.

"when we postulated multiple waves of settlement we do not have to attribute all phenotypical differences to different ratios of Mongoloid and non-Mongoloid mixture: some of the differences may have already been found in the different wave of invaders".

I would expect the majority of difference existed before any migration. Since any arrival in America we would expect at least some level of hybridisation. That would have been so before any arrival but it seems, from the evidence as we have it, that the first people into eastern Siberia were not particularly Mongoloid. They are presumably represented by the MA-1 individual.

"Tibet has not been inhabited very long. And the Tibetan phenotype is less Mongoloid than the phenotypes of Mongolia and eastern Siberia".

I did say from the EDAR370A mutation it seems to have originated near the Tibet border with Inner Mongolia. The fact that the phenotype is particularly pronounced in Mongolia and eastern Siberia supports that idea as further south it has been diluted with admixture into a more Papuan-like population.

Gregory76 said...

Terry said: Thanks for your contribution Gregory76.

I reply: You're welcome.

I said: "Tibet has not been inhabited very long. And the Tibetan phenotype is less Mongoloid than the phenotypes of Mongolia and eastern Siberia".

Terry said: I did say from the EDAR370A mutation it seems to have originated near the Tibet border with Inner Mongolia. The fact that the phenotype is particularly pronounced in Mongolia and eastern Siberia supports that idea....

I reply: Close, but Tibet and even Mongolia are not close enough: in the same climate and vegetation to the west of Mongolia, in Turkestan, Mongoloids are late arrivals. It seems that only in North Asia were Mongoloids first (although of course there ancetors were not fully Mongoloid at first). Also, the most extreme version of the Mongoloid type is found in Siberia: the northern Tungus are more Mongoloid than the Mongols.