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Early Modern Human from Tianyuan Cave, China

By Hong Shang and Erik Trinkaus

Publication Year: 2010

For more than a century, scientists have returned time and again to the issue of modern human emergence-the when and where of the evolutionary process and the human behavioral and biological dynamics involved. The 2003 discovery of a human partial skeleton at Tianyuandong (Tianyuan Cave) excited worldwide interest. The first human skeleton from the region to be directly radiocarbon-dated (to 40,000 years before present), its geological age places it close to the time period during which modern humans became permanently established across the Old World (between 50,000 and 35,000 years ago). Through detailed description and interpretation of the most complete early modern human skeleton from eastern Asia, The Early Modern Human from Tianyan Cave, China, addresses long-term questions about the ancestry of modern humans in eastern Asia and the nature of the changes in human behavior with the emergence of modern human biology. This book is a detailed, paleontological and paleobiological presentation of this skeleton, its context, and its implications. By providing basic information for this important human fossil, offering inferences concerning the population processes involved in modern human emergence in eastern Eurasia, and by raising questions concerning the adaptations of these early modern human hunter-gatherers, The Early Modern Human from Tianyuan Cave, China will take its place as a core contribution to the study of modern human emergence.

Published by: Texas A&M University Press

Series: Texas A&M University Anthropology Series


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p. vii

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pp. ix-xi

The karstic area around Zhoukoudian has been famous since the discoveries there in the 1920s and 1930s of Middle and Late Pleistocene human remains, abundant faunal remains, and archeological assemblages. This fame, which was justified both by the nature of the discoveries and by the classic monographs written on the sites and their contents during the 1930s and 1940s, was enhanced by the mystery that ...

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Chapter 1 Introduction

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pp. 1-3

DURING MOST of the past century and into the current century, paleoanthropology has returned time and again to the issue of modern human emergence, querying the when and the where of that evolutionary process and especially of the human behavioral and biological dynamics that were involved. Given the abundance of Paleolithic archeological sites between the Caucasus Mountains and the Atlantic Ocean and the long history of fossil human discov-...

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Chapter 2 Tianyuandong: The Cave, Its Context,and Its Contents

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pp. 4-15

TIANYUANDONG, OR Tianyuan Cave, is a small cave situated at the base of a modest exposed limestone cliff , high on the south side of a small valley (Figure 2-1). It is located on the domain of the Tianyuan Tree Farm of Huangshandian village, which is part of Zhoukoudian town, in the Fangshan district of Beijing (39° 39′ 28″ N, 115° 52′ 17″ E) (Figure 2-2). It is approximately 6 km southwest of the classic Homo erectus site of Zhoukoudian Locality 1 and its adjacent Late Pleistocene Upper Cave site. Located 174.5 m above sea level

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Chapter 3 Preservation of the Tianyuan 1Human Fossil Remains

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pp. 16-27

THE PRESERVED remains of the partly disturbed Tianyuan 1 skeleton retain portions of nearly all aspects of the skeleton except the cranium. It has 8 teeth, a mandible, 3 axial elements, 15 upper limb bones, and 13 lower limb bones (Table 3-1; Figures 3-1 and 3-2). Of this total of 32 bones, 4 are midsagittal; 14 are right; 11 are left ; and 3 are indeterminate as to side. Of the 8 teeth, the left maxillary molar Th ese remains are inventoried here, and their preservation is described...

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Chapter 4 Comparative Materials and Methods

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pp. 28-40

THIS BOOK is concerned with the comparative morphology and paleobiology of the early modern human partial skeleton from Tianyuan Cave. However, all paleontological description is by its nature comparative. Therefore, it is necessary to provide a human paleontological framework to assess the continuous and discrete morphological pattern of this individual and to place its paleobiological aspects in context. It is also desirable to employ standardized criteria for this ...

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Chapter 5 The Tianyuan 1 Dentition

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pp. 41-53

THE DENTITION of Tianyuan 1 was markedly reduced, antemortem and postmortem. Prior to death, the individual sustained substantial tooth loss, which is reflected in the altered alveolar process of the mandible and the super-proximal wear on the remaining teeth. After death and through fossilization and recovery, any left mandibular teeth that might have been there and all but one of the remaining maxillary teeth were lost. However, the remaining eight teeth (right ...

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Chapter 6 The Tianyuan 1 Mandible

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pp. 54-73

THE TIANYUAN 1 mandible is largely complete from the left P4M1 region, around the symphysis and the right corpus, to the mandibular notch (Figures 6-1 and 6-2). As such, it provides data on the symphyseal region, the lateral corpus, The mandible had been altered as a result of antemortem tooth loss (Chapters 5 and 12), but it appears that the associated pathological alterations were limited to the alveolar process. The changes primarily affected the left corpus, and as a result ...

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Chapter 7 Body Size and Body Proportionsof Tianyuan 1

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pp. 74-87

THE ASSESSMENT of various aspects of the Tianyuan 1 skeletal remains and of more general aspects of its paleobiology requires an estimation of its body size and body proportions. Given that at least one long bone from each of the major limb segments is sufficiently preserved to provide a bone length, and that there are several lower limb articulations preserved (Chapters 3, 9, and 10), it is possible to provide some assessment of these parameters. However, the almost ...

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Chapter 8 The Tianyuan 1 Axial Remains

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pp. 86-95

DESPITE THE relative completeness of the Tianyuan 1 limbs, the axial skeleton is poorly represented. It consists of an essentially complete second cervical vertebra (C2, or axis), a partial manubrium, and two elements of the mesosternum. In addition to minor degenerative osteoarthritis on the axis (Chapter 12), the axis is of note primarily for its asymmetry. The sternal pieces provide some indication of their size...

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C h a p t e r 9The Tianyuan 1 Upper Limb Remains

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pp. 96-131

THE UPPER limb skeletons of Tianyuan 1 are reasonably well represented. Th e fossil preserves portions of both scapulae, both humeri, an ulna, both radii, three carpal bones, three proximal manual phalanges, a middle manual pha-lanx, and a distal manual phalanx (see Figure 3-2). In addition, it is possible to estimate reliably the original lengths of the left humerus and radius. But only the hand bones are largely complete. Th e preserved arm articulations consist of only ...

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Chapter 10 The Tianyuan 1 Lower Limb Remains

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pp. 132-166

THE TIANYUAN 1 lower limbs retain most of a femur and of a tibia, partial elements of the other femur, the other tibia and a fibula, a talus and a calcaneus, four metatarsals, and two proximal pedal phalanges (see Figure 3-2). As with the upper limb remains, the long bones tend to be mostly diaphyseal, and the pedal remains are more complete. Nothing remains of the pelvis, nor of the patellae or the anterior tarsal bones. Nonetheless it is possible to estimate reliably the ...

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Chapter 11 Sex and Age-at-Death of Tianyuan 1

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pp. 167-170

ASSESSMENTS OF the overall place of the Tianyuan 1 skeletal remains in Late Pleistocene paleobiological variation can benefit from knowledge of the biological sex and the age-at-death of the individual. Even though primary indicators of these parameters are not preserved on the remains, it may be possbile to gain an approximate assessment of them from indirect indicators.The biological sex of the Tianyuan 1 partial skeleton can be primarily assessed ...

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Chapter 12 Paleopathology of theTianyuan 1 Partial Skeleton

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pp. 171-189

THROUGHOUT THE chapters on the individual skeletal elements of Tianyuan 1, there are many references to pathological abnormalities. Some of these are briefly described since they relate to the paleobiology of concern in those chapters, but detailed description and diagnosis of them is presented here. Some of the relevant details and illustrations are in Chapters 5 through 10...

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Chapter 13 Paleoanthropological Implications of theTianyuan 1 Human Remains

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pp. 190-204

GIVEN ITS geological age, geographical position, and preservation of multiple elements, the Tianyuan 1 partial skeleton has the potential to provide insight into several aspects of Late Pleistocene human paleobiology and population processes. As noted in the introduction, one specimen, no matter how complete and no matter how diagnostic, cannot by itself resolve ongoing issues concerning human evolution and especially modern human emergence. Individuals ...

Appendix 1: Taphonomy of the Human Remains from Tianyuandong

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pp. 205-210

Appendix 2 Isotopic Analysis of Tianyuan 1 and Associated Faunal Remains

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pp. 211-216


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pp. 217-239


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pp. 241-247

E-ISBN-13: 9781603442459
E-ISBN-10: 1603442456
Print-ISBN-13: 9781603441773
Print-ISBN-10: 1603441778

Page Count: 272
Illustrations: 42 b&w, 8 color photos. 3 line art. 3 maps. 40 figs. 54 tables.
Publication Year: 2010

Series Title: Texas A&M University Anthropology Series
Series Editor Byline: Steele, D. Gentry See more Books in this Series

OCLC Number: 680622503
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Early Modern Human from Tianyuan Cave, China

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Subject Headings

  • Hunting and gathering societies -- China.
  • Tianyuan Cave (China) -- Antiquities.
  • Tianyuan Man.
  • Antiquities, Prehistoric -- China.
  • Cave dwellers -- China -- Tianyuan Cave.
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