Two skulls found in China shed light on the ancient humans who inhabited the region before our own species arrived. We know that Europe and western Asia was dominated by the Neanderthals before Homo sapiens displaced them. But remains belonging to equivalent populations in East and Central Asia have been scarce. It is unclear if the finds are linked to the Denisovans, a mysterious human group known only from DNA analysis of a tooth and finger bone from Siberia. Prof Erik Trinkaus, one of the authors of a study on the remains in Science journal, said it was not possible to say at this stage whether the ancient people from Xuchang were connected to the Denisovans. Modern humans (Homo sapiens) originated in Africa some 200,000 years ago before expanding out across Asia, Europe, Oceania and the Americas after 60,000 years ago. As they spread across the world, they displaced the existing populations they encountered, such as the Neanderthals and Denisovans – but some limited interbreeding occurred. The partial skulls from China are between 105,000 and 125,000 years old and lack faces. But they show clear similarities to and differences from their Neanderthal contemporaries in the west.
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