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When did modern humans first arrive in Asia? Skull pieces could hold clues. (+video)

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Rough terrain, persistent scientists

The fossils were discovered in 2009 in the limestone cave, which is located at the top of the Pa Hang Mountain 3,840 feet (1,170 meters) above sea level.

"The cave is surrounded by lots of papaya and banana trees, so a troop of monkeys likes to come and forage there, therefore its name," Shackelford said.

There were many challenges working in this area.

"It's incredibly difficult to access the site — it's only 150 miles (240 kilometers) from the capital, but it takes us two days to drive there because of the rough terrain," Shackelford said. "We have to hike up the side of a cliff, do a bit of rock-climbing to get to the mouth of the cave, and then going in, we have to go 60 meters (200 ft) down a slope of wet clay. We also have to carry a generator and lights with us to see in the cave. We have to push pigs out of the way to get through the jungle — there are just pigs wandering around there." [Amazing Caves: Photos of Earth's Innards]

"Every bit of clay has to be removed and taken back up by hand, trowel and bucket, so work is incredibly slow," she added. "We only go in the dry season in the winter, so we don't really have to deal with insects and snakes — well, we did have snakes fall into the pit while excavating. And in the cave, we've had more than our fair share of spiders and bats."

Oldest bones of modern humans

No artifacts were found at the site, nor were signs of human occupation.

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