Although the specific location is not clear and its dating is still debated, the Ziyang human fossil has attracted extensive attention from academic circles because it is the first almost complete human skull fossil found after the establishment of the People’s Republic of China. For a long time, the research on the Ziyang skull was limited to only external morphology and measurements using traditional methods. In order to better understand the evolutionary stage of the Ziyang hominid, a high-resolution industrial CT scanner was used to analyze its internal anatomy, and 3D virtual reconstructions of its bone structure, frontal sinus, bony labyrinth, pneumatization of mastoid air cells, and endocast were created and analyzed. CT images of the bone structure shows that the diploë is very thick—much thicker than the outer and inner layers. This supports the previous identification results of the Ziyang individual over 50 years old. The frontal sinus of the Ziyang is in the shape of a leaf, bilaterally located on the inner and upper orbital areas, with surface areas on the left and right of 1780 mm2and 2910mm2, respectively. The size and proportion of the Ziyang semicircular canals of the bony labyrinth are different from Neandertals, but are in the ranges of those from Late Pleistocene Homo sapiens and recent modern humans. The pneumatization of mastoid cells was in pneumatic type, and almost occupied the entire mastoid process with pneumatic cavities. Based on the 3D virtual reconstruction of the endocast, the cranial capacity of the Ziyang skull was estimated at around 1250 mL. Although the endocast is small in all measurements, most of the brain morphology as well as the width-height index and the parietal lobe-length index were all within the variation range of modern humans, which are different from those of Homo erectus and Pleistocene archaic humans. The internal anatomy of the Ziyang skull retains a few original features, including the two occipital lobes that are prominently backwardly convex, and the cerebral fossa, which is larger and deeper than the cerebellar fossa. These two features are different from Holocene humans but are similar to Pleistocene early modern humans.
Morphological diversity has been revealed in the cranial, mandibular, and dental materials of East Asian Middle Pleistocene hominins, and the taxonomy of later members is uncertain. In order to further apprehend the morphological variability of East Asian Middle Pleistocene hominins and provide evidence for the taxonomy of the later members, the present study conducted three-dimensional morphometric analyses, including morphometric map of lateral enamel thickness and diffeomorphic surface matching of enamel-dentine junction (EDJ), on the lower second molars. The results indicate that: 1) East Asian Middle Pleistocene hominins could be distinguished from both Neanderthals and modern human; 2) East Asian late Middle Pleistocene hominins displayed special distribution pattern of lateral enamel thickness and a more progressive EDJ shape relative to mid-Middle Pleistocene Homo erectus. The present study quantifies two important morphologies and their variability, i.e., distribution pattern of enamel thickness and EDJ shape, in addition to the individual dental traits studied by previous works. It will provide further insight into the taxonomies of East Asian late Middle Pleistocene hominins and help designating isolated teeth from the same period into their correct morphological groups.
Phalangeal curvature has long been used to infer locomotor behavior in fossil primates. Several methods, such as radius of curvature, included angle (IA), normalized curvature moment arm (NCMA), and high-resolution polynomial curve fitting (HR-PCF), have been employed to quantify and compare phalangeal curvature. However, each method has theoretical or technical limitations in the degree to which they are able to accurately quantify phalangeal curvature, and these undermine the applicability and utility of these methods. A novel method of analyzing phalangeal curvature, based on 4th order polynomial curve fitting on geometric morphometric landmark data (GM-PCF), is described here as an alternative method. GM-PCF avoids the problems with previously employed methods and provides a more accurate representation of phalangeal curvature. It uses normalized phalangeal curve height (NPCH) as a quantitative indicator of phalangeal curvature, and depicts the average normalized phalangeal curve for qualitative comparison of curvature. Furthermore, it provides additional information about phalangeal proportions that are crucial for interpreting the functional relationships of phalangeal curvature. GM-PCF is also capable of dealing with incomplete phalanges. To test the utility of the new method, fifteen groups of extant anthropoid primates are used as a reference sample for comparison with two species of Miocene hominoids from China, Lufengpithecus lufengensis and Lufengpithecus hudienensis. The results of the GM-PCF analysis are used to infer the most likely locomotor behavior of the fossil hominoids.
The dental endostructural morphology of the Miocene hominid, Lufengpithecus hudienensis from Yuanmou basin remains largely undocumented. Here we first use micro-CT scanning and landmark-based, 3D geometric morphometric tools to conduct a preliminary study on the enamel-dentine junction (EDJ) morphology of Lufengpithecus hudienensis lower fourth premolars(n=6), with a comparative sample of fossil and extant great apes (n=26) and modern humans(n=10). Multivariate analysis of the shapes of the EDJ ridge curves suggests that L. hudienensis as membership in the hominids, it has slender occlusal outline and smaller fovea anterior than posterior, which is a relatively primitive feature (compared with Homo) widely expressed among great apes and early hominins. In the between-group PCA (bgPCA) plot, L. hudienensis is placed at an intermediate position between Gorilla (sharp dentine horns and elevated topology) and other hominid taxa with relatively flattened EDJ represented by Pan, fossil Pongo and Gigantopithecus blacki, such similarities may reflect functional adaptation rather than phylogenetic signals, but further analysis with a large sample is needed before drawing a conclusion. Interspecific overlap between L. hudienensis and comparative samples is minor. The morphological affinity between L. hudienensis and comparative samples is investigated. The possible implications for dietary inferences in light of EDJ morphology and previously documented enamel thickness data are discussed.
In recent years, treeshrews have gained interest among researchers in the study of human development and disease owed to their phylogenetic closeness to primates. In this comparative study among a mouse, dog, human, baboon, and treeshrews, bone microstructure and morphology were quantitatively analyzed to assess the closeness of treeshrews to humans. In the femurs of three adult male Belanger's treeshrews (Tupaia belangeri chinensis), the osteon structure of the cortical bone was studied using confocal imaging via Fluorescein Iso-Thio-Cyanate sample preparation and staining. Osteocyte lacunae morphology was visualized using acid-etched SEM. Overall, the density and structure of osteon-like formation as well as the morphology of osteocyte lacunae in Belanger's treeshrews bore greater resemblance to mice than humans. These findings indicate that although treeshrews are phylogenetically closer to humans than mice, their bone morphology and functionality are still close to those of mice. This scenario was the first time that osteons and osteocyte lacunae were visualized and characterized in addition to those in a dog and baboon, which enriches our understanding of bone development, adaptation, and evolution in early primates. Future quantitative comparative study is warranted to characterize the micromorphology of bone in treeshrews.
Jundushan cemeteries are key sites of Bronze age pastoral Yuhuangmiao culture from Eastern Zhou Period in North China. Cranial traumas of 125 individuals from the cemetery were examined. Males showed a high prevalence rate (13.3%) but no cases of trauma were found in females and non-adults. All of the injuries were ante-mortem blunt force trauma, the prevalence shows no temporal change or hierarchical difference. The cranial trauma of Jundushan was close related to violent conflict, which was a manifestation of increasing competition and instability in Jundushan society, and was related to the fragile ecology as well as interaction with surrounding sendentary agricultural populations.
This study reports a paleopathological differential diagnosis on the skeleton from Shiyanzi Cemetery site of Han Dynasty(2040 BP) in Ningxia. This specimen shows bone lesion on most part of the calvarium. Margins of lesion demonstrate scalloped borders with osteoblastic marginal uplift. The irregular and inward to outward-like beveled margins shows a possible neoplasm from the inside out. The combination of macroscopic observation and CT scanning provides more comprehensive information about ancient human disease and improves the credibility of diagnosis. According to the previous clinical reports, based on the morphology, distribution of the lesion, this individual may suffered from a severe metastatic carcinoma.
The paper aims to understand the diachronic changes of prehistoric human behavior in South China, and hope to understand the changes of prehistoric human cultural behavior patterns and lifestyles. The paper compared the biomechanical characteristics of limb bones of ancient human in Dingsishan site, Liyudun site, Chongtang site, Jiangbian site and Hecun site, and compared more groups in a broader space-time range and lifestyles. The results show that the activities of different archaeological groups in the area were similar during 8000-4000 BP. Although most of the prehistoric people in South China have significant differences in compressive, tensile and torsional strength, they all show high activities. These groups are most similar to the known hunting-gathering groups in many aspects of bone biomechanical characteristics, and are significantly different from the agricultural groups. Therefore, the paper argues that the behavior and activities of the prehistoric people in South China is closer to that of hunting-gathering groups.
In 1960, three Late Pleistocene human partial femora were discovered in Lijiang city, Yunnan province, southwestern China. According to the stratigraphic comparison, only one femur, PA108 could be attributed to Late Pleistocene. Compared with the detailed morphological study of human cranium remain from Lijiang, the femoral fragments have only been reported without detailed study or comparative analysis. Given the scarcity of lower limb bone fossils of Late Pleistocene humans from East Asia, a more detailed report of the partial femora from Lijiang is warranted. Here, we provide a description to supplement the initial report and comparative assessment of the Lijiang PA108 femoral internal and external morphology. Specifically, we analyze diaphyseal structure of PA108 using micro-computed tomography coupled with methods of cross-sectional geometry, geometric morphemtrics, and morphometric mapping. Cross-sectional properties, diaphyseal shapes, and cortical bone thickness distributions of PA108 are compared to those of other Pleistocene hominins. The PA108 was found to be most similar to those of Late Pleistocene modern humans in descriptive morphology with well-developed pilaster, cross-sectional contour shape of midshaft and cortical bone distribution pattern, and distinct from earlier Homo. This similarity provides reliable support for attributing the Lijiang femur PA108 to Homo sapiens. The particularity of PA108 is the cortical bone thickening at medial and lateral aspects mid-proximally compared to Neandertals and other early modern humans, which should be correlated with its weakly developed linea aspera. The prominent femoral pilaster on linea aspera and maximal cortical thickness posteriorly around the region of midshaftof Lijiang femur PA108 is similar to other Late Pleistocene modern humans from East Asia. However, there are still some morphological difference between PA108 and Late Pleistocene modern humans from East Asia, as showin in 1) the more round shape of PA108 midshaft cross-section; 2) the thickness difference between medial, lateral and posterior aspects is smaller in PA108. Those morphological variations of PA108 should be also related to its weakly developed linea aspea. Lijiang femur PA108 exhibits morphological variation compared to other early modern humans from mainland of East Asia, which expands the record of morphological diversity of East Asia modern humans at Late Pleistocene. In addition, it is worth noting that the difference of cortical thickness between Neandertals and early modern humans should be focused on the distribution of maximal thickness around the area of femoral middle diaphysis, considering the developed linea aspera and pilaster of modern humans posteriorly.
Morphometric mapping is a 2D visualization method that displays 3D morphometric information, which can effectively reflect the distribution characteristics of cortical thickness. Despite there exist differences in the distribution pattern of cortical thickness between modern humans and Pleistocene archaic humans and great apes, more explorations are needed to test whether there are variations within Holocene modern humans. In present study, 34 right humeral specimens (23 males and 11 females) from 6 Holocene central and north China agricultural populations were selected to analyze the distribution characteristics of the humeral diaphysis cortical thickness by morphometric mapping comprehensively. This work compared the differences between the analysis results obtained after standardizing the cortical thickness by maximum thickness and biomechanical length, and verified the applicability of principal component analysis on morphometric mapping. The results reveal that within the Holocene central and north China agricultural populations, there exists some variances between males and females, but males of different populations show no obvious distinction. Though this work to some extent reveals the variations in the distribution of humeral diaphysis cortical thickness of Holocene modern humans by analyzing the agricultural populations from Holocene central and northern China, it’s still necessary to carry out works on new specimens which contain diverse populations, large sample size and strict variable control by method used in the present study, so as to verify or expand the conclusions obtained here in the future.
Different from facial-, neuro- and basi- cranium, how occipital morphology reflects population relationship was still largely uninvestigated. Besides, due to the complexity of the occipital, it’s hard to use traditional morphometrics to capture its overall morphology. Here we present a study on occipital shape and allometric pattern variation among populations using three-dimensional geometric morphometrics and multivariate statistics. One hundred and three extant adult male skulls from Asia, Africa and Europe were applied for this study. Significant differences were observed among different populations on occipital size and occipital shape though efficient discriminations were unlikely to be made. On the contrary, great variations have been noticed among the pooled modern populations, mainly on the projection and superior-inferior position of the external occipital protuberance, proportion of nuchal and occipital plane, anterior-posterior position, medial-lateral and superior-inferior position of asterion, and inclination of clivus. Allometric patterns were different among populations. Nonetheless, similar allometric patterns have been observed within African and European. This study failed to find a strong relationship between occipital morphology and population relationships, and further suggests that the occipital morphology is largely influenced by function and environment..
The Upper Cave (UC) 101 skull is one of the most complete human fossils in the Eastern Asia, which has been the most important material to investigate the origins of modern Eastern Asian humans. In this study, we proposed a computerized craniofacial reconstruction approach to produce a possible 3D facial appearance of UC 101 skull based on the average facial soft-tissue thickness measurements (FSTMs) distribution of modern living humans within the skull and face datasets. It contains three steps: first, we used computerized tomography (CT) scan to acquire the digital model of a high-quality replica of UC 101 skull, which consists of the cranium and mandible. Second, based on the assumption that the average FSTMs distribution of the living humans is the similar to that of the UC 101, we used computer technique to virtually attach this FSTMs distribution to the UC 101 so as to produce the facial appearance. We also employed the handmade drawing technique to produce the facial morphological characteristics and subtle details of the reconstructed face. Finally, we proposed a geometric shape analysis approach to assess the reliability of the reconstructed face by means of the comparison of FSTMs distributions and the face statistical shape model. Our results illustrate that the reconstructed face is consistent with the geometric shape of UC 101, which exhibits an elongated face, a sloped forehead, stronger and wider eyebrows, etc. Our method exhibits a possible likeness of geometric shape of the neurocranium and facial morphological characters, which may further be applicable for other anthropological fossils.
In 2011, Bailuzhou, Anhui Province, discovered the well-preserved tombs of the nobility of Chu during the Warring States Period. The skull, which is well-preserved and characteristic of the Mongolian race in South Asia, is supposed to be female, aged 35-39, according to the skeletal form. To show the appearance of an aristocratic woman in the Warring States region and enrich the archaeological diversity of the region to provide research materials, The cranium and mandible of an individual were digitized using a high-resolution CT device. Then, a 3D general shape of the facial appearance was approximately estimated by means of a computerized craniofacial reconstruction method based on partial least squares regression. Finally, according to the archaeological materials and assumption, the 3D model processing software and texture mapping technique were used to revise the facial appearance and create the digital model of hair decoration. It improves the realism of the facial appearance and vividly reproduces the morphological features of the female face of the aristocratic woman in the warring States period.
Substantial development of the ancient DNA capture techniques allows for obtaining DNA from a wide range of materials, including bone and environmental sediments. Moreover, effective endogenous DNA fragments are also obtainable from low-latitude regions with poor preservation conditions, greatly enriching the material sources for ancient DNA research. This paper summarizes and discusses this new technology in two main aspects: 1) it summarizes and presents the potential application of this technology; and 2) it reviews the knowledge gained from the application of this new technology to the study of ancient genomes. Specifically, this paper focuses on the study of ancient genomes from southern China and covers three points. First, we reveal the new insights gained from the study of ancient genomes. Second, we provide an in-depth analysis of the differences among ancient genomes of early populations in southern China. Third, we discuss the use of ancient DNA capture technology in successfully obtaining high quality mitochondrial genomic information from four individuals (3446-3180 cal BP) of Dayin Cave site in Yunnan Province.
The Nenjiang River valley is one of the most important settlements for ancient Chinese people in northeast China. Archaeological research demonstrates that the inhabitants had practiced mixed hunting-gathering-fishing since the Neolithic Age, only began to engage in animal husbandry and limited millet cultivation until the late Neolithic Age and early Bronze Age. A problem remained about whether it was a transfer of culture and technology or if it involved the migration of people who experimented with animal husbandry and limited millet cultivation and then brought them to Nenjiang River valley. Here we successfully sequenced 24 complete mitochondrial DNA genomes of 11000 to 2000-year-old humans from the Nenjiang River Valley. The results show that the Bronze / Iron Age populations of Nenjiang River valley matrilineal received partial contribution from the populations of the West Liao River, despite some level of continuity between Neolithic Age groups and Bronze / Iron Age. Combining paleoclimatology, archaeology, and linguistics, we estimate that the ancient people of West Liao River had migrated to the Nenjiang River valley carried their cultural techniques and languages between 4,000 and 3,000 years ago.
There are many methods to extract ancient DNA from ancient raw materials. Generally, the research of ancient DNA is subject to factors such as serious degradation, while the low content of endogenous ancient DNA, the high content of microbial and modern human DNA. Whether we can successfully obtain reliable and sufficient endogenous ancient DNA has always been a practical difficulty and challenge in the field of ancient DNA research. The most direct and convenient strategy to eliminate the pollution effectively is in the procedure of ancient DNA extraction. This paper summarized the common methods of ancient DNA extraction to remove exogenous pollutants. We compared and analyzed the advantages and disadvantages of each method. This paper also introduced the time commonly used in the bone lysis step and suggested the best incubation time was 4 days at room temperature by exploring the effect of different lysis time on the recovery efficiency of ancient DNA. At the same time, we surveyed the representative methods of ancient DNA purification and the performance in the application. Our summary and experience could provide reference information for researchers in the field of ancient DNA research.
Gigantopithecus blacki is the largest hominoid that ever lived in southern China during Pleistocene epoch. Based on its highly specialized dentognathic anatomy, especially extremely large dentition and mandible size, this giant species is estimated to have a body mass of at least 200 kg. So far, chronological and biostratigraphic evidences indicate that G. blacki occupation ranged from 2 MaBP to 0.3 MaBP. The origins and evolution of this animal are controversial for long time, due to the absence of geological fossil record in late Miocene to Pliocene. In Nature (2019) we reported a proteome study on tooth enamel of G. blacki in Chuifeng cave of early Pleistocene (1.9 MaBP) in Bubing Basin, southern China. We identified no endogenous proteins from the dentine, but instead recovered an ancient enamel proteome composed of 409 unique peptides matching 6 endogenous proteins. We demonstrate that G. blacki is a sister clade to orangutans (genus Pongo) with a common ancestor about 12~10 MaBP. This is the first time that molecular evidence is retrieved from such ancient fossil in the subtropical region, further suggesting that the study of ancient proteins will provide strong support for the exploration of the origin and evolution of extinct species, including hominins. In addition, this paper will also briefly review the history of phylogenetic and divergence discussion of Gigantopithecus and introduce the proceeding of the ancient proteins study.
The Global History of Health Project(GHHP), started by Richard Steckel and colleagues, is a platform to systematically document a series of selected health and disease parameters of human skeletal remains of recent millennia in the context of environmental and socioeconomic changes. This unique project provides an unprecedented look of recent human history to gauge the quality of life and human adaptability in challenging living conditions. Inspired by the GHHP saga staged in the Americas and Europe, we have initiated the GHHP- Asia Module in 2018 to extend this project to Asia, an important theater for the rise of many first civilizations. Human burials have been found throughout the Asian continent from the Neolithic Age to Bronze and Iron Ages and onwards. Most importantly, the majority of burials are associated with archaeological evidence of environmental settings and socioeconomic modes. The project will unlock rich yet mostly untapped information from large skeletal collections in China, Mongolia, Japan, South Korea, East Russia, India, and Southeast Asia and beyond, and establish a contexualized database recording the history of human pathology, focusing on oral pathology and joint diseases, in Asia during the past 10,000 years. The inclusion of the Asia story in GHHP will not only enrich the first hand skeletal and oral health status over generations in recent human history in an evolutionary sense, but also expand existing databases for global and local health agency authorities on policy making for contemporary populations with different economic-social status, ranging from pre-agriculture to modernization.