Late Pleistocene archaic human crania from Xuchang, China
Excavations in eastern Asia are yielding information on human evolution and migration. Li et al. analyzed two fossil human skulls from central China, dated to 100,000 to 130,000 years ago. The crania elucidate the pattern of human morphological evolution in eastern Eurasia. Some features are ancestral and similar to those of earlier eastern Eurasian humans, some are derived and shared with contemporaneous or later humans elsewhere, and some are closer to those of Neandertals. The analysis illuminates shared long-term trends in human adaptive biology and suggests the existence of interconnections between populations across Eurasia during the later Pleistocene.Science, this issue p. 969Two early Late Pleistocene (~105,000- to 125,000-year-old) crania from Lingjing, Xuchang, China, exhibit a morphological mosaic with differences from and similarities to their western contemporaries. They share pan–Old World trends in encephalization and in supraorbital, neurocranial vault, and nuchal gracilization. They reflect eastern Eurasian ancestry in having low, sagittally flat, and inferiorly broad neurocrania. They share occipital (suprainiac and nuchal torus) and temporal labyrinthine (semicircular canal) morphology with the Neandertals. This morphological combination reflects Pleistocene human evolutionary patterns in general biology, as well as both regional continuity and interregional population dynamics.