Peking Man Lived 200,000 Years Earlier Than Thought

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(See an interactive map of ancient human migrations.)

The Peking man subspecies is believed to have walked fully upright, used sophisticated stone tools, and sported a brain three-fourths the size of a modern human's.

They Came for the Game?

In northeastern China during the newly suggested time period, Homo erectus would have likely found a food-rich region similar to the landscapes the species had been accustomed to.

Before Homo erectus' arrival in the Zhoukoudian region, "we think the climate got cooler and drier and maybe moved more toward grasslands, which would attract more game and, in turn, human hunters," Ciochon said.

"And there is every reason to believe that Peking man was eating meat." Telltale animal bones have been found at Peking man sites, for example.

Mystery Solved?

New York University paleoanthropologist Susan Antón said she doesn't believe the new data provide evidence for two migrations into Asia.

"It's certainly possible that there were two migrations—or six or nine," said Antón, who was not involved in the new study.

"But in order to talk about that, you would really need to have some evidence along the routes of those pathways and also some sort of anchor point in Africa" that ties both migrations to a single origination region, she said.

Antón did suggest that, by shifting Peking man to the same, earlier time frame as fellow Homo erectus subspecies, the study helps solve a longstanding scientific mystery.

"It was always a bit puzzling as to why you'd have them persisting until relatively late in continental Asia," she said, "when you didn't really see them persisting, for example, in Africa."

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