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Archaeology Magazine

A publication of the Archaeological Institute of America

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Human Tooth Hints at Early Migration Out of Africa

Wednesday, August 09, 2017

Sumatra human toothSYDNEY, AUSTRALIA—Kira Westaway of Macquarie University and her colleagues have found evidence of the presence of Homo sapiens on the Indonesian island of Sumatra dated to between 63,000 and 73,000 years ago, according to a report in New Scientist. “This is a significant finding because it supports emerging ideas that modern humans left Africa and reached Australia much earlier than we thought,” said Michelle Langley of Griffith University. The evidence came in the form of two teeth, discovered by Dutch archaeologist Eugene Dubois in a cave on Sumatra in the late nineteenth century. The researchers confirmed the teeth belonged to Homo sapiens by comparing them to orangutan fossils found near the cave, and then dated them with electron spin resonance dating. Scientists could now look for traces of early human habitation in the rainforest, such as evidence of cooking and stone tool use. But, Langley notes, “It’s possible they were just passing through.” To read about another major discovery in Indonesia, go to “The First Artists.”

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