The 81st Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (2012)


Modern human fossils from Tam Pa Ling, Laos

LAURA L. SHACKELFORD1, FABRICE DEMETER2,3, ANNE-MARIE BACON4, PHILIPPE DURINGER5, KIRA WESTAWAY6, THONGSA SAYAVONGKHAMDY7, JOSE BRAGA3, PHONEPHANH SICHANTHONGTIP7, PHIMMASAENG KHAMDALAVONG7, JEAN-LUC PONCHE5, CRAIG LUNDSTROM8, ELISE PATOLE-EDOUMBA9 and ANNE-MARIE KARPOFF5.

1Department of Anthropology, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 2Ecoanthropologie and Ethnobiologie, National Museum of Natural History, France, 3Anthropobiology Laboratory, UPS Toulouse, 4Dynamique de l'evolution humaine: individus, populations, especes, CNRS, 5Institut de Physique du Globe, Universite de Strasbourg, 6Department of Environment and Geography, Macquarie University, 7Department of National Heritage, Ministry of Information and Culture, Lao P.D.R., 8Department of Geology, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 9Conservation du Patrimoine, Palais du Louvre

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Uncertainties surround the timing of modern human emergence and occupation in East and Southeast Asia. Following a gap in the East Asian hominin fossil record from 100-40 ka, the earliest paleoanthropological evidence of definitively modern human occupation is at Tianyuan Cave, China (ca. 40 ka). Genetic data, however, indicate that humans migrated out of Africa using a southern route into Southeast Asia by at least 60 ka before continuing northward into East Asia. Patterns of genetic variation in recent human populations as well as results from recent studies of ancient DNA point to Southeast Asia as an important source for the peopling of East Asia. Here we introduce newly discovered modern human fossils from Tam Pa Ling, a cave site in Hua Pan Province, Laos, dated to ca. 50 ka. These remains establish the earliest presence of humans in mainland Southeast Asia and bridge the temporal discrepancy that has previously existed between paleoanthropological and genetic evidence for modern human occupation in the region. Additionally, they provide evidence of alternative routes of migration for modern human populations in eastern Asia during the Late Pleistocene. We report on the paleoanthropological and geological record of Tam Pa Ling, including geochronology and biostratigraphy of the site. Additionally, morphological analyses of these fossils are performed relative to available Late Pleistocene and Holocene East and Southeast Asian fossils to assess the morphological affinities of Tam Pa Ling and make inferences regarding Pleistocene migrations in East Asia.

This research is supported by the L.S.B. Leakey Foundation, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Culture and Information of Lao P.D.R.

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