The Liujiang skeleton, consisting of a well preserved cranium and limited postcranial material, was discovered in a small cave at Tongtianyan in the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region in 1958 by people collecting fertilizer (Wu 1959). Liujiang was initially described by Wu (1959), with Wu and Zhang (1985) providing additional comparative anatomical information. The Ailuropoda- Stegodon fauna found in association with Liujiang were interpreted as being of Middle Pleistocene age but the contemporaneity of the fauna and human skeletal remains have not been established. Wu (1959) did not support a Middle Pleistocene age for the human skeletal materials arguing that the morphology of the cranium suggested a more recent date. This is supported by morphological and metrical comparison with other East Asian crania, for instance Minatogawa 1 (Suzuki, 1982; Wu, 1992; Hanihara, 1994). More recently a Uranium series date of 67,000 +6000-5000 was reported for Liujiang (Wu 1988, 1990, 1992) which would make it the earliest example of modern Homo sapiens from the East Asian region. However, the stratigraphic relationship of the dated stalactite layer and the human skeletal materials can not be confirmed (Chen and Zhang 1991). At present (2021) it must be said that the Liujiang skeleton remains undated.

By both modern and Neolithic standards Liujiang has a long and low cranial vault, with an occipital bun, little obelionic flattening and no sagittal keel. The facial skeleton is short but relatively broad for its height. The superciliary ridges are moderately developed, with some depression of the root of the nose and low, rectangular orbits. Facial prognathism is greater than the average amongst modern and late Neolithic Chinese but is similar to the early Neolithic male average. The mastoid processes are extremely small, and along with the pelvic morphology makes me uncertain as to the male sex of Liujiang (Brown In Press). Both teeth and palate are moderate in size, with congenitally absent third molars, a small odontome in the center of the palate and a shovel shaped right lateral incisor.

The remaining complete temporo-mandibular joint (above) has a heavily worn and remodeled temporal fossae and eminence. There was probably extensive remodelling of the associated mandibular condyle and bone-to-bone contact (ebonation) in this joint during life. This would have made for a painful temporo-mandibular joint during normal mastication. The combination of occlusal tooth wear and damage to the tmj suggests that Liujiang was an older individual when they died.

There is nothing particularly East Asian about the facial skeleton of Liujiang. While the nasal bones are flattened, the nasal aperture is not very tall and the antero-lateral surfaces of the malars are not rotated forwards like in Chinese Neolithic and modern facial skeletons. Low, rectangular orbits are common in the Late Pleistocene and early Holocene throughout the world and this should be disregarded when determining East Asian affinity. Unlike Upper Cave 101 only limited statistical comparisons have been conducted with Liujiang. Both Suzuki (1982) and Wu (1992) place Liujiang closer to Minatogawa 1 than Upper Cave 101, with the former study also distinguishing Liujiang from modern East Asians.

Liujiang is worthy of a more detailed research effort, including comparisons with Neolithic populations, tooth wear, oral health and diet, evidence for body size that might be provided by the postcrania, and anatomical details that might be revealed by a CT scan. You might also be able to digitally separate the vertebrae, sacrum and rib fragments using CT scans.


Brown, P. 1998. The first Mongoloids: another look at Upper Cave 101, Liujiang and Minatogawa 1. Acta Anthropologica Sinica 17 (4):255-275.

Brown, P. In Press. Modern human origins in East Asia: a view from the late Pleistocene and Neolithic of China and Japan. In K. Omoto (ed.), Interdisciplinary Perspectives on the Origins of the Japanese, pp. International Research Center for Japanese Studies, Kyoto.

Chen, T. and Zhang, Y. 1991. Palaeolithic chronology and possible coexistance of Homo erectus and Homo sapiens in China. World Archaeology 23:147-154.

Hanihara, T. 1994. Craniofacial continuity and discontinuity of Far Easterners in the Late Pleistocene and Holocene. Journal of Human Evolution 27: 417-441.

Suzuki, H. 1982. Skulls of the Minatogawa Man. In H. Suzuki and K. Hanihara, The Minatogawa Man, pp. 7-49. University of Tokyo Press, Tokyo.

Wu, R. 1959. Human fossils found in Liukiang, Kwangsi, China. Gu Jizhuidongwu yu Gu Renlei 1:97-104.

Wu, X. 1988. The relationship between Upper Palaeolithic human fossils of China and Japan. Acta Anthropologica Sinica 7:235-238.

Wu, X. 1990. The evolution of humankind in China. Acta Anthropologica Sinica 9:312-322.

Wu, X. 1992. The origin and dispersal of anatomically modern humans in East and Southeast Asia. In T. Akazawa, K. Aoki and T. Kimura (eds) The evolution and dispersal of modern humans in Asia, 373-378. Hokusen-sha, Tokyo.

Wu, X. and Zhang, Z. 1985. Homo sapiens remains from Late Palaeolithic and Neolithic China. In R. Wu and J. W. Olsen, Palaeoanthropology and Palaeolithic Archaeology in the People's Republic of China, pp. 107-133. Academic Press, London.

Wu, X.-Z. 1992. The origin and dispersal of anatomically modern humans in East and Southeast Asia. In T. Akazawa, K. Aoki and T. Kimura (eds.), The evolution and dispersal of modern humans in Asia, pp. 373-378. Hokusen-sha, Tokyo.

Table 1. Comparative dimensions of Upper Cave 101, Liujiang and Minatogawa 1.

Variable list Upper Cave 101 Liujiang Minatogawa
glabella-opisthocranion 206 191 181
basion-nasion 109 105 102
basion-bregma 133 135 136
max. cranial breadth 144 143 147
bi-auricular breadth 137 126 129
bi-asterionic breadth 122 108 117
basion-prosthion 107 104 (105)
nasion-prosthion 76 66 (61)
nasal height 58 46 (50)
nasal breadth 33 25 25
palate breadth 69 64 (65)
mastoid height 31 22 32
orbit height 34 27 30
orbit breadth 45 41 45
bi-maxillary breadth 104 98 (105)
bi-frontal breadth 108 106 111
nasion-bregma chord 116 102 105
nasion-bregma subt. 29 28 20
nasion-subtense fraction 64 52 47
bregma-lambda chord 120 118 111
bregma-lambda subt. 22 25 24
bregma-subtense fraction 52 65 61
lambda-opisthion chord 98 92 (95)
lambda-opisthion subt. 28 25 (22)
lambda-subtense fraction 33 37 (32)


East Asian Index