New research on the oldest fossilized modern human skeleton found in China shows that China's earliest modern human might not have come "out of Africa".
The new findings show that the theory of a spread of modern humans eastward from Africa does not do justice to the complexity of human evolution, said Shang Hong, a scientist with the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology (IVPP) under the Chinese Academy of Sciences.
Shang Hong, Tong Haowen, other IVPP colleagues and Erik Trinkaus of Washington University examined a skeleton discovered in 2003 in Tianyuan Cave in the suburbs of Beijing.
The skeleton, dating back 38,500 to 42,000 years, is the oldest modern human skeleton found in east Eurasia.
Scientists said that most of the features of the skeleton match those of modern humans, while a minority are more like late archaic humans.
The prevailing "out of Africa" theory holds that modern humans first appeared in eastern Africa about 150,000 years ago, migrated from the continent between 35,000 and 89,000 years ago, and moved across the globe to sweep aside populations, with no interbreeding.
CAS academician Wu Xinzhi said the new findings show that the archaic humans of China were not totally replaced by the modern humans from Africa.
Other scientists also disagree with the "out of Africa" theory. They insist on a multi-regional evolution model which holds that modern man descended from several indigenous archaic human populations in the Old World.
This multi-regional theory argues that our ancestors emigrated from Africa 1.5 million years ago, but different branches in several different regions -- modern-day Africa, Europe, east Asia and west Asia -- evolved simultaneously through interbreeding into modern humans.
The research result will be published in the Proceedings of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences on April 3.