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


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 In this study, we review previously presented material (TPL1–TPL3), present unpublished postcranial material (TPL4 and TPL5), and provide dental metric analysis of the TPL1–TPL3 specimens.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

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Archaeology
  • Anthropology
  • Archaeology


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