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Several lines of evidence - including genetics and archaeology - support a dispersal of our species from Africa 60,000 years ago.
Early modern humans living in the horn of Africa are thought to have crossed the Red Sea via the Bab el Mandeb straits, taking advantage of low water levels.
All non-African people alive today are thought to derive from this diaspora.
Now, excavations at Fuyan Cave in Daoxian have unearthed a trove of 47 human teeth.
"It was very clear to us that these teeth belonged to modern humans [from their morphology]. What was a surprise was the date," Dr María Martinón-Torres, from University College London (UCL), told BBC News.
Some fossils of modern humans that predate the Out of Africa migration are already known, from the Skhul and Qafzeh caves in Israel. But these have been regarded as part of a failed early dispersal of modern humans who probably went extinct.
However, the discovery of unequivocally modern fossils in China clouds the picture.
"Some researchers have proposed earlier dispersals in the past," said Dr Martinón-Torres.
"We really have to understand the fate of this migration. We need to find out whether it failed and they went extinct or they really did contribute to later people.
"Maybe we really are descendents of the dispersal 60,000 years ago - but we need to re-think our models. Maybe there was more than one Out of Africa migration."