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Yunxian Man

Updated: Feb 1, 2023

Ana Reif


A new Homo erectus fossil fills gaps in the history of hominins’ occupation of East Asia.

This new fossil belongs to a collection including two other fossils that has been dubbed Yunxian man. It was found in Hubei province in central China, and is estimated to be 1 million years old. The remains are associated with a collection of animal fossils and stone tools, indicating that this individual belonged to a population of avid hunters and toolmakers.

Yunxian Man (Cranium 3) in situ

After the initial Chinese Homo erectus finds at Zhoukoudien cave system (Peking Man) at the turn of the 20th century, paleoanthropologists believed that H. erectus stagnated and met a dead end in East Asia. In more recent years, several more fossils have helped us fill in the gaps, revealing rich morphological variation in the hominin occupation in China.

Lantian Man, unearthed in the 1960s, is one of China’s oldest known hominins at 1.63 million years.

The only known fossils of Yuanmo man, a 1.7 million-year-old H. erectus from Southern China, judged by some to be morphologically distinct from Peking Man on the basis of these teeth alone.

Previous Asian erectus fossils, including other skulls from the Yunxian site, have been found incomplete and heavily warped. Though this fossil is still being excavated, it appears that the skull is mostly intact and free from distortion. Though it’s possible to use computational models to estimate what a fossil would look like before the distortion occurred, the results of these analyses are often controversial. Pristine finds like this one remove guesswork from morphological evaluations.

In the years to come, scientists will be able to confirm the fossil’s date and determine its morphological and taxonomic relationship to other H. erectus populations in Asia and elsewhere.

Read more about Yunxian Man here

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