ANCIENT bones and tools have been uncovered in China that rewrite the history of our early ancestors.
The discovery means we now know early humans left Africa at least 270,000 years earlier than previously thought.
Archaeologists made their find in China’s enormous Loess Plateau, an early cradle of civilisation that contains the “most highly erodible” soil on Earth.
A team of scientists digging in the area discovered tools and bones that date back 2.12million years, as revealed in the Nature journal.
That’s 270,00 years older than the 1.85million-year-old skeletal remains and tools from Dmanisi in Georgia.
The Georgian find was previously the earliest evidence of humans – specifically Homo Erectus – venturing beyond Africa.
Tools discovered at the site included rudimentary versions of a notch, scrapers, a cobble, hammer stones and pointed pieces.
Importantly, all of the tools showed signs of use – the stone had been intentionally flaked, according to the team.
Most of the tools were made from quartzite and quartz, which is believed to have come from local foothills.
There are substantial quartz deposits in the Qinling Mountains, which sit just 5-10 kilometres south of the dig site.
Researchers also found fragments of animal bones dating back 2.12million years at the site, too.
Homo Erectus – the simple facts
Scientists have discovered evidence of Homo Erectus leaving Africa nearly 300,000 years earlier than previously thought – but who were they?
- Homo Erectus is the name for an extinct species of humans
- The name Homo Erectus literally means “upright man” – because they walked on two legs
- Homo Erectus are believed to have first appeared around 3million years ago
- And latest evidence suggests they left Africa around 2.1million years ago
- Scientists think Homo Erectus died out completely around 500,000 years ago
- It’s believed that Asia is where Homo Erectus evolved into modern humans
- Researchers say Homo Erectus began creating and using tools made from stone around 2.6million years ago
- They were also the first to use fire to cook, and to make hand axes out of stone
- It’s believed that Homo Erectus were the first human ancestors to live in a hunter-gatherer society
The discovery was a joint effort between a team from the Chinese Academy of Sciences, led by Professor Zhaoyu Zhu, and Professor Robin Dennell, of Britain’s Exeter University.
Professor Dennell said: “Our discovery means it is necessary now to reconsider the timing of when early humans left Africa”.
It’s not hugely surprising that this discovery was made in the Loess Plateau.
The sprawling plateau covers an incredible 270,000 square kilometres, and is made of up extremely soft silt.
The entire region has been carved out by winds, offering up insulated shelter from the colds of winter and summer heat.
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It was once an important centre for trade during the days of the Silk Road, and served as a prime rice-growing territory in medieval times.
The area was also devastated by the Shaanxi earthquake in 1556, which caused the deaths of 830,000 people when a number of caves collapsed.
Researchers who worked on the latest dig say that 80 different stone artefacts have been found among 11 layers of fossil soils that developed in a “warm and wet climate”.
A further 16 items were found in six layers of loess that developed in “colder and drier conditions”.
It proves that humans have occupied the plateau through different climates for millions of years.
Which period of history would you most like to go back in time and visit? Let us know in the comments!
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