Archaic Homo sapiens Homo antecessor Homo heidelbergensis
Archaic Homo • For many years, scientists placed any problematic specimens displaying mixtures of "erectus-like" and "modern" traits into a confusing category: "Archaic" Homo sapiens (basically meaning any Homo sapiens that didn't look quite modern). • Recently, it has been proposed to separate these individuals into distinct species. For this purpose, the names Homo antecessor &Homo heidelbergensis have been assigned.
Homo antecessor • The species Homo antecessor is another very controversial species designation. The species was designated by J.L. Arsuaga et al. to the remains of several individuals found at the Gran Dolina site, Spain. • The discovery was significant because the remains have been securely dated at over 780 kyr. This makes the material the earliest known European specimens. • The find breathed new life into the argument for the validity of H. heidelbergensis, as well as creating a whole new species: H. antecessor.
Homo antecessor traits • Has a marked double-arched browridge (like later Neanderthals and Chinese erectus). • An approximate brain size of 1000-1300 cc. • Reduced mandibular thickness when compared to ergaster or early erectus. • Has small postcanines that resemble those of the habilines (habilis and rudolfensis), but they are still within the ergaster/erectus range. • Shovel-shaped maxillary incisors (ancestral condition). • Found in Europe ca. 800,000 B.P.
Gran Dolina Site, Spain • The most complete specimen is Hominid 3, which is also the type specimen for antecessor. • This is unusual because Hominid 3 is a 10-year old, and therefore has not fully developed its skeletal characteristics. • The specimen was chosen because it highlighted all the features that the researchers were attempting to describe as typic of the species. • However, these features are all variable (even within the small sample from Gran Dolina itself. “Gran Dolina Boy”
Reconstruction of “Gran Dolina Boy” Illustration by Mauricio Antón
Illustration by Mauricio Antón Tools found with the Gran Dolina fossils include simple cutting flakes. Cut marks left by tools on human bones indicate the bodies were defleshed after death (Mauricio Antón/Madrid Scientific Films), possible evidence, the excavators say, of cannibalism (Javier Trueba/Madrid Scientific Films).
Homo heidelbergensis • Homo heidelbergensis is the species name now given to a range of specimens from about 400,000 years ago to the appearance of anatomically modern Homo sapiens (the species to which we belong). • The species name was originally proposed for the fossil mandible discovered at Mauer, a town near Heidelberg, Germany. It is a nearly complete early human mandible that is very robustly built, but lacks a chin. • Additional finds of early humans with morphological attributes of both modern humans and Homo erectus have shown that the transition from early and middle Pleistocene forms and the morphology of modern humankind was not a neat transition that could be easily explained.
This mandible was found by a workman in the Rösch sandpit just north of the village of Mauer near Heidelberg, Germany, in 1907. The workman showed the find to the anatomist O. Schoentensack, who provided the initial description of the specimen. The mandible is complete with only the premolars and first two molars on the left side missing. The molars were recovered separately, although the premolars were lost.
Homo heidelbergensis • The mandible itself is large, and robustly built like that seen in Homo erectus, with broad ascending rami. The corpus of the mandible is deep and thicker than a modern human's. The lack of a projecting chin is another morphological difference from modern humans. • Schoentensack proposed the species name Homo heidelbergensis for the Mauer specimen. This assignment has been problematic over the years. The robust morphology of the jaw shows affinities to Homo erectus populations from the same time period, yet the tooth morphology is decidedly more "modern" in appearance. • Most researchers agree that the Mauer mandible is not Homo erectus. For a long time many scientists placed the mandible a rather confusing taxon: "Archaic" Homo sapiens. Recently, members of this taxon have been separated at the species level and given a separate species name: Homo heidelbergensis. • Unfortunately, there is no way to absolutely date the Mauer specimen; that is, determine exactly how old the specimen is. However, faunal correlation (comparing the animal fossils found at this site with other sites for which dates have been determined) has placed the find within the Middle Pleistocene, perhaps 500,000 years old.
Kabwe Skull • Once thought to be less than 40,000 years old, the Kabwe skull (also known as the Broken Hill skull) was used at one time to validate the supposed "primitiveness" of African peoples, demonstrating that while Europeans had evolved to the "level" of Cro-Magnon, African populations still looked essentially like Homo erectus. • This assumption was shown to be flawed on many accounts, most crucially in that the date for this site based on the associated animal fossils found is at least 125,000 years old, and is probably significantly older. • Some researchers have proposed that Kabwe may be a member of the African population from which all modern humans descended, although this cannot be definitively proven.
The braincase profile is low and slopes back from a large supraorbital torus reminiscent of earlier H. erectus specimens. • There is also the remnant of a sagittal keel and an occipital torus at the back of the skull, also recalling H. erectus. However, the face is more modern in appearance (less prognathic, flatter) and the brain size of about 1300 cc. is larger than seen in H. erectus. • Thus, this cranium preserves many traits that are reminiscent of earlier H. erectus and hints of more modern traits known later in H. sapiens.
The cranium shows evidence of disease and wounds that occurred in the lifetime of this individual. • Ten of the upper teeth have cavities, and dental abscesses of the upper jaw are clearly visible in the upper photograph (above the right incisor/canine) and the middle photograph (above the first molar). • Additionally, a partially healed wound is visible above and anterior of the hole for the ear. • This wound measured roughly a quarter-inch across, and was made by either a piercing instrument or the tooth of a carnivore. Exactly which is unclear Kabwe skull
Arago 21 Skull • Found by Henri and Marie- Antoinette de Lumley in the late 1960's/ early 1970's in Tautavel, France • Dated to between 200,000 - 400,000 years http://www.msu.edu/~heslipst/contents/ANP440/heidelbergensis.htm
Bodo Partial Cranium • Discovered by Asfaw, Whitehead, and Wood in 1976 in the Middle Awash Valley, Ethiopia • Dated to 600,000 years http://www.msu.edu/~heslipst/contents/ANP440/heidelbergensis.htm
Petralona Cranium • Found by local villagers in Petralona, Greece in 1960 • Dated to between 150,000 - 200,000 years http://www.msu.edu/~heslipst/contents/ANP440/heidelbergensis.htm
Sima de los Huesos- “Pit of Bones” • In a cave beneath the Atapuerca hillside, and not far from Gran Dolina, lies one of the most remarkable sites in all of paleoanthropology: the location known as Sima de los Huesos, or the Pit of the Bones. • The bottom of the pit is crammed with bones from such animals as cave bears, lions, foxes and wolves, as well as the hominid species Homo heidelbergensis. • Dates to around 400,000 years ago. AMNH
“Pit of Bones” Ursus spelaeus “Cave Bear” AMNH
Sima humans- Homo heidelbergensis • They were reasonably tall—males averaged about five feet, seven inches. • And like their close relatives the Neanderthals, they were robustly built. • Several of the individuals suffered from disease or injury. Illustration by Mauricio Antón
Heavy wear on the front teeth of some of the Sima hominids suggests that they held objects such as skins in their mouths while working on them with stone tools. • In this hypothetical scenario, a Sima man scrapes a hide with a stone implement. Illustration by Mauricio Antón
How did the bones of the Sima hominids end up in the cave? • There are no indications that the hominids ever lived in the cave—for example, there is no evidence that they used fire or made tools there. • Remains from around 30 individuals have been found, many of them teenagers and young adults. • If the Sima hominids had fallen in accidentally, we would expect to see a wider range of ages represented. • These bodies may have been intentionally thrown into the pit by other hominids—but we do not know why.
Disposing of the dead? • The scientists who discovered the Sima fossils have speculated instead that the hominids disposed of these bodies by carrying them over to the cave—perhaps as shown in the imaginative illustration above—and then throwing them in. • There is no evidence, however, that this practice was part of a tradition of planned burial. • The Neanderthals were the first hominids known to engage in such behavior, beginning under 100,000 years ago. Illustration by Mauricio Antón