Science China Earth Sciences

, Volume 60, Issue 12, pp 2160–2170 | Cite as

New progress in understanding the origins of modern humans in China

  • Xing Gao
  • Fei Peng
  • QiaoMei Fu
  • Feng Li


Hypotheses concerning the origins of modern humans have been intensively debated, and two competing models, the recent “Out-of-Africa” and “Multiregional Evolution” paradigms, have dominated research and discussions for decades. Evidence from China has played a fundamental role in this debate: regional continuity and replacement by populations in-migrated from Africa have both been suggested and supported mainly by paleoanthropologists and geneticists, respectively. As more evidence has accumulated, new results obtained, and more scholars from various disciplines become involved, supporters of the recent “Out-of-Africa” model agree more or less with the “Multiregional Evolution” model regarding the complex history of modern humans and their interbreeding with other archaic populations (e.g., Neandertals). Recent discoveries of new human fossils, Paleolithic archaeological materials, and ancient DNA evidence in China have yielded a large body of information regarding the formation and development of modern humans in this region. However, controversies continue, including that most molecular biologists insist on the replacement of archaic populations by modern humans dispersed from Africa, while most paleoanthropologists and archaeologists propose an enhanced “Continuity with Hybridization” model. In this paper, we compile new results and progress in China and present the current debates and issues on the origins of modern humans. Finally, we offer several suggestions for future studies.


China Origins of modern humans Modern behavior Recent out-of-Africa Continuity with hybridization Interdisciplinary research 


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The authors are grateful to Prof. John W. Olsen for the help in polishing the manuscript. This work was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (Grant No. 41672024), the Chinese Academy of Sciences Strategic Priority Research Program (Grant No. XDPB05), and the National Basic Research Project under the Ministry of Science and Technology of China (Grant No. 2014FY110300).


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Copyright information

© Science China Press and Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Key Laboratory of Vertebrate Evolution and Human Origins of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and PaleoanthropologyChinese Academy of SciencesBeijingChina
  2. 2.University of the Chinese Academy of SciencesBeijingChina
  3. 3.Department of Early Prehistory and Quaternary EcologyUniversity of TübingenTübingenGermany

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