Anatomically modern human in Southeast Asia (Laos) by 46 ka

Fabrice Demeter*, Laura L. Shackelford, Anne Marie Bacon, Philippe Duringer, Kira Westaway, Thongsa Sayavongkhamdy, José Braga, Phonephanh Sichanthongtip, Phimmasaeng Khamdalavong, Jean Luc Ponche, Hong Wang, Craig Lundstrom, Elise Patole-Edoumba, Anne Marie Karpoff

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

150 Citations (Scopus)


Uncertainties surround the timing of modern human emergence and occupation in East and Southeast Asia. Although genetic and archeological data indicate a rapid migration out of Africa and into Southeast Asia by at least 60 ka, mainland Southeast Asia is notable for its absence of fossil evidence for early modern human occupation. Here we report on a modern human cranium from Tam Pa Ling, Laos, which was recovered from a secure stratigraphic context. Radiocarbon and luminescence dating of the surrounding sediments provide a minimum age of 51-46 ka, and direct U-dating of the bone indicates a maximum age of ∼63 ka. The cranium has a derived modern human morphology in features of the frontal, occipital, maxillae, and dentition. It is also differentiated from western Eurasian archaic humans in aspects of its temporal, occipital, and dental morphology. In the context of an increasingly documented archaic-modern morphological mosaic among the earliest modern humans in western Eurasia, Tam Pa Ling establishes a definitively modern population in Southeast Asia at &sim50 ka cal BP. As such, it provides the earliest skeletal evidence for fully modern humans in mainland Southeast Asia.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)14375-14380
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number36
Publication statusPublished - 4 Sept 2012


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