|The 63,000 year old skull from the Annamite Mountains in Laos|
The cranium was found 2.5 metres below the soil in a cave. Analysis revealed that the sediment was around 43,000 years old. Yet the skull was far older. Not only was it a member of our species, it was an incredible 63,000 years old, making it older than both the oldest human fossils in Australia and the youngest proposed boundary for our migration out of Africa. This single discovery neatly re-aligns the dates of the diaspora, clearing up the question of how we became a global species.
|The proposed route out of Africa|
The skull's owner, however, must have been part of a family group.The fossil evidence matches the clues left in our genetics so it is very possible that more remains will be recovered from the region. 'This find supports an 'Out-of-Africa' theory of modern human origins rather than a multi-regionalism model,' said Shackelford.
'Given its age, fossils in this vicinity could be direct ancestors of the first migrants to Australia. But it is also likely that mainland Southeast Asia was a crossroads leading to multiple migratory paths. This fossil find indicates that the migration out of Africa and into East and Southeast Asia occurred at a relatively rapid rate, and that, once there, modern humans weren't limited to environments that they had previously experienced.'
This new find is perhaps one of the most important anthropological discoveries of the past few years. The problem with dating the colonization of Oceania has been a long standing one. With more fossil and archaeological evidence this will become clearer. The Laos skull is a start.