Early modern humans from tam pà ling, laos fossil review and perspectives

Fabrice Demeter, Laura Shackelford, Kira Westaway, Lani Barnes, Philippe Duringer, Jean Luc Ponche, Jean Dumoncel, Frank Sénégas, Thongsa Sayavongkhamdy, Jian Xin Zhao, Phonephanh Sichanthongtip, Elise Patole-Edoumba, Tyler Dunn, Alexandra Zachwieja, Yves Coppens, Eske Willerslev, Anne Marie Bacon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


Despite the importance of its geographical position for early modern human migration through Australasia, the Indochinese Peninsula has produced relatively few fossils or well-documented archaeological sites, resulting in a poor chronology for early occupation. Tam Pà Ling (TPL), a cave in northern Laos, is one of the rare sites yielding fossils contemporaneous with the earliest migrants into Australasia within a securely established chronology. From its discovery in 2008 until the most recently filed season in 2016, TPL has provided evidence of a modern human presence in the region by marine isotope stages 4 and 3. A partial cranium (TPL1), two mandibles (TPL2, TPL3), and assorted postcranial fragments (TPL4, TPL5) represent the earliest well-dated, anatomically modern humans in the Indochinese Peninsula and introduce new migration routes into the area. The sedimentary context of TPL is described and refined elsewhere, resulting in an approximate age of 44–63 ka for the TPL1 and TPL2 fossils and a maximum depositional age of 70 ka for the lowest layer containing the TPL3 mandible. This is 20 ka older than the depositional ages for the TPL1 and TPL2 fossils and establishes a new upper limit for sedimentary deposition at the site and for the associated fossil evidence. In this study, we review previously presented material (TPL1–TPL3), present unpublished postcranial material (TPL4 and TPL5), and provide dental metric analysis of the TPL1–TPL3 specimens.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)S527-S538
JournalCurrent Anthropology
StatePublished - 2017
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We are grateful to the authorities of Muang Vien Thong and Longngouapa villages (Xon and Muang Hian districts). Thanks for support and help with micro–computed tomography scanning procedures of the AST-RX (Accès Scientifique à la Tomo-graphie à Rayons X) platform, UMS 2700 “Outils et méthodes de la systématique intégrative,” CNRS–Muséum national d’Histoire naturelle (MNHN), Paris, France. We are grateful to Erik Trin-kaus for providing mandibular data and to José Braga for assistance with the geometric morphometric analyses. Thanks to Anne-Marie Karpoff, who conducted the sediment analysis. The dating component of the research was funded by an Australian Research Council Discovery grant (DP1093049) to K. Westaway. The TPL fossils are housed at the Heritage Department of the Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism of Lao People’s Democratic Republic in Vientiane. All necessary permits for excavation were obtained from the Heritage Department, and excavation and research complied with all relevant regulations of the Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism. This research was supported by the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism of Lao People’s Democratic Republic, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, the UPR2147 (CNRS, Paris), UMR7206 (MNHN, Paris), and the University of Strasbourg, UMR7516, France.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017 by The Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research. All rights reserved.

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