The 84th Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (2015)


Early modern humans and morphological variation in Southeast Asia: fossil evidence from Tam Pa Ling, Laos

FABRICE DEMETER1,2, LAURA L. SHACKELFORD3, JOSE BRAGA2, KIRA WESTAWAY4, PHILIPPE DURINGER5, ANNE-MARIE BACON6, JEAN-LUC PONCHE7, XIUJIE WU8 and THONGSA SAYAVONGKHAMDY9.

1Departement Homme Nature Societe, National Museum of Natural History, 2Anthropobiologie et Imagerie Anatomique, Universite Paul-Sabatier, 3Department of Anthropology, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 4Department of Environment and Geography, Macquarie University, 5Ecole et Observatoire des Sciences de la Terre, Universite de Strasbourg, 6Unite Propre de Recherche, Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, 7LMSPC, Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, 8Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, 9Department of National Heritage, Ministry of Information and Culture

March 27, 2015 11:15, Grand Ballroom D Add to calendar

Despite its geographic primacy as the intersection of dispersal paths to Australasia, mainland Southeast Asia has played little role in scenarios of early human migrations. Tam Pa Ling (TPL), Laos, is the source of early modern human fossils – a partial cranium (TPL1) and a complete mandible (TPL2) – that have been recovered from a secure stratigraphic context dated to 45-63 thousand years ago (ka). These fossils represent the earliest anatomically modern humans in continental Southeast Asia and introduce new migration routes into the region during Marine Isotope Stage (MIS) 3.

The TPL fossils were evaluated in the context of archaic and early modern humans from across the Old World with an emphasis on available fossils from East and Southeast Asia. The TPL1 partial cranium and TPL2 mandible were evaluated using discrete traits, linear and angular morphometrics and geometric morphometrics. Between-group principal component analysis was performed to evaluate shape differences between a priori defined comparative samples and to determine the affinities of the TPL fossils. While the TPL1 cranium demonstrates affinities with early modern humans in all features, the TPL2 mandible shows a mixture of archaic and modern traits and is aligned with archaic humans in geometric morphometric analyses. These results are evidence that fully modern morphology (TPL1) was present in Southeast Asia prior to or contemporaneous with a mixture of archaic and modern human anatomy (TPL2), suggesting that a large range of morphological variation was present in early modern human populations residing in the area.

Funding provided by ARC Discovery Grant DP1093049 and LIEF Grant LE100100094, French Ministry of Foreign Affairs, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, UPR2147 (CNRS), UMR7206 (MNHN, Paris) and UMR7516 (CNRS/IPGS Strasbourg).