Science: Teeth from Chinese cave recast history of early human migration

A trove of 47 fossil human teeth from a cave in southern China is rewriting the history of the early migration of our species out of Africa, indicating Homo sapiens trekked into Asia far earlier than previously known and much earlier than into Europe.

Scientists on Wednesday announced the discovery of teeth between 80,000 and 120,000 years old that they say provide the earliest evidence of fully modern humans outside Africa.

"Until now, the majority of the scientific community thought that Homo sapiens was not present in Asia before 50,000 years ago," said paleoanthropologist Wu Liu of the Chinese Academy of Sciences' Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology.

University College London paleoanthropologist María Martinón-Torres said our species made it to southern China tens of thousands of years before colonizing Europe perhaps because of the entrenched presence of our hardy cousins, the Neanderthals, in Europe and the harsh, cold European climate.

Martinón-Torres said some migrations out of Africa have been labeled "failed dispersals." Fossils from Israeli caves indicate modern humans about 90,000 years ago reached "the gates of Europe," Martinón-Torres said, but "never managed to enter".