Lauded China skull find “far from the greatest” - January 24, 2008
Claims of huge importance for a newly discovered human skull have been undermined by some experts.
There has been a fair bit of excitement in China on the state news service about the 100,000 year old skull found in Henan and the excitement was catching for Reuters and the Guardian. Shan Jixiang, director of the State Administration of Cultural Heritage, told China Daily, “It is the greatest discovery in China after the Peking Man and Upper Cave Man skull fossils were found in Beijing early last century, and will shed light on a critical period of human evolution.”
Dennis Etler, a palaeoanthropologist at Cabrillo College, California, told the Guardian, “This is a crucial period in human evolutionary history, but we know almost nothing about it. Anything coming from that period is of great interest to the outside world. This sounds like a breakthrough.”
The South China Morning Post even reckons this find “may bury ‘Out of Africa’ theory”.
This conclusion isn’t backed up by other experts. Wu Xinzhi, a professor at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, told AFP, “It is far from the greatest judging from points such as the completeness, the time, and the significance of problems it can explain. So far, it just can prove that there were human beings living in Henan about 80,000 to 100,000 years ago and the shape of their heads was roughly what the skull shows.”
And in his brief blog note on the topic, biological anthropologist Greg Laden says it is “interesting, but not necessarily earth-shattering”.
We’ll come back to this when a peer review publication surfaces...
So far no reliable reports seem to be available of a new and potentially interesting, but not necessarily earth-shattering, find in China.