New Delhi, Jan 23 : Archaeologists have unearthed an almost complete human skull fossil in the province of Henan in China, which could date back 100,000 years, thus shedding light on an important period of human evolution.
According to a report in China Daily, the Henan find was made after two years of excavation at the site in Xuchang by Chinese archaeologists, who worked on an area of 260 sq m, merely one-hundredth of the Paleolithic site.
The fossil consisted of 16 pieces of the skull with protruding eyebrows and a small forehead.
The pieces were fossilized because they were buried 5 m near the mouth of a spring, whose water had a high content of calcium.
"More astonishing than the completeness of the skull is that it still has a fossilized membrane on the inner side, so scientists can track the nerves of the Paleolithic ancestors," said Li Zhanyang, archaeologist with the Henan cultural relics and archaeology research institute, who lead the excavation.
Besides the skull, more than 30,000 animal fossils, and stone and bone artifacts were found in the small area in the past two years.
The pieces of the human skull showed up just when archaeologists were going home for the Spring Festival.
"It was freezing cold and digging was difficult. We planned to leave the next day when one of us saw something like part of a human skull," said Li.
"It is the greatest discovery in China after the Peking Man and Upper Cave Man skull fossils were found in Beijing early last century, and will shed light on a critical period of human evolution," said Shan Jixiang, director of the State Administration of Cultural Heritage.
"We expect more discoveries of importance," said Li.