The theory of evolution is backed up by fossils of the ‘Peking man’ found in China during the early twentieth century. The current human species is believed to be the descendant of the Homo erectus, our predecessor species with a smaller brain and upright stature; the Peking man is a subspecies of this group and the corresponding fossil remains were estimated to be nearly 550,000 years old.
However, recent Chinese fossil findings conducted by Nanjing Normal University in 2008 suggest the age of a Peking man skull to be at least 750,000 years old. The Homo erectus species is believed to have migrated from Africa approximately 2 Million years ago to Asia. The new estimated age of the Peking man fossils puts forward the possibility of two different subspecies having settled in different parts of Asia during the same timeline. The Homo erectus species had inhabited China and other parts of Southeast Asia for over half a million years.
According to University of Iowa’s Russell Ciochon, the Peking man is likely to have coexisted with other Homo erectus subspecies; while one group of Homo erectus is assumed to have settled down in subtropical areas of Zhoukoudian in China, the unfamiliar weather could have driven the other group Southeast which could have evolved into what we today refer to as Peking man (Handwerk 2009). Ciochon uses the phrase “fork in the road” as an analogy to explain this situation (Handwerk 2009). This subspecies is assumed to have possessed the ability to make tools out of stone and walk upright.
Also, its brain size being almost 75% the size of a Homo erectus makes it’s the closest descendant to human beings. The other group of Homo erectus settled in Zhoukoudian is believed to have enjoyed a good supply of food and familiar environment, giving rise to the subspecies Homo erectus pekinensis. The earlier timeline would also mean that this subspecies lived in a more pleasant climate in the grasslands. Moreover, fossil evidence of animal bones indicates that this group of Homo erectus settled in China consumed meat.
This inviting proposition of food and pleasant weather could have given raise to the early Homo sapiens to migrate from Africa to Asia. Homo sapiens are quite different from Homo erectus since they are marked by a more “rounded skull, divided brow ridge, and chin” (Platt 2008). One school of thought spearheaded by Hou Ya-mei of Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology points out the possibility of modern Homo sapiens coexisting, interbreeding or even fighting with Homo erectus, thereby observing the theory of ‘survival of the fittest’ in action (Platt 2008).
The present human race is believed to have originated out of Africa 60,000 years ago. The differences in Homo erectus fossil patterns in Asia and other parts of the world had given rise to discrepancy, which can be explained by a “secondary migration from Africa” (University Of Cambridge). Even though this theory makes sense to an extent, Susan Anton of New York University is pessimistic about the supporting data given to back up claims of two separate settlements of Homo erectus.
She simply mentions the possibility of any number of migrations can be claimed, but those claims will continue to be void without strong supporting evidence. She furthers states that evidence such as the routes taken by the Homo erectus groups or a central cohesive point of origin in Africa would be needed to connect the “Out of Africa” theory and these claimed migrations. However, Anton concludes by admitting that this theory and the change in the timeline would help explain why the Homo erectus had persisted longer in continental Asia. Reference Handwerk, B. (2009, Mar 12).
Peking Man Lived 200,000 Years Earlier Than Thought. National Geographic News. Retrieved 24 March, 2009, <http://news. nationalgeographic. co. in/news/2009/03/090312-peking-man. html> Platt, K. H. (2008, Feb 20). Ancestral Human Skull Found in China. National Geographic News. Retrieved 24 March, 2009, <http://news. nationalgeographic. com/news/2008/02/080220-china-fossil. html> University Of Cambridge (2007, May 10). New Research Confirms ‘Out Of Africa’ Theory of Human Evolution. ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 24, 2009, from <http://www. sciencedaily. com /releases/2007/05/070509161829. htm>