Methuselah uncovered

THE results of the recent analysis of a skull excavated 10 years ago from cave deposits at the Jinniushan site in China reveal that it is the oldest specimen of Homo sapiens found in the country (Nature, Vol 368, No 6466).

The skull, along with an almost complete skeleton, was discovered in 1984. According to Chen Tiemei and his colleagues at Beijing University, the dating exercises of five fossilised animal teeth found near the Jinniushan Man show that the skull is at least 200,000 years old, almost as old as the latest Homo erectus -- the direct ancestor of Homo sapiens -- indicating that the two species may have lived side by side in China.