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7 November 2009
Chinese challenge to 'out of Africa' theory

The discovery of an early human fossil in southern China may challenge the commonly held idea that modern humans originated out of Africa. Jin Changzhu and colleagues of the Institute of Vertebrate Palaeontology and Palaeoanthropology in Beijing, announced to Chinese media last week that they have uncovered a 110,000-year-old putative Homo sapiens jawbone from a cave in southern China's Guangxi province.
     The mandible has a protruding chin like that of Homo sapiens, but the thickness of the jaw is indicative of more primitive hominins, suggesting that the fossil could derive from interbreeding. If confirmed, the finding would lend support to the 'multiregional hypothesis'. This says that modern humans descend from Homo sapiens coming out of Africa who then interbred with more primitive humans on other continents. In contrast, the prevailing 'out of Africa' hypothesis holds that modern humans are the direct descendants of people who spread out of Africa to other continents around 100,000 years ago. The study will appear in Chinese Science Bulletin later this month.

Source: NewScientist (3 November 2009)

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