Tech UPTechnologyAn unknown species of hominids in Atapuerca?

An unknown species of hominids in Atapuerca?

mandibula-atapuercaIn the magazineJournal of Human Evolution, the most prestigious in the field of human evolution, two articles have been published by the Atapuerca Research Team (EIA) on theoldest human fossil in Europe, found in the Sima del Elefante in the Sierra de Atapuerca in 2007. It is a jaw with a chronology of between 1.2 and 1.3 million years and, as has been suggested in one of the works, it may not belongs to any known hominid species.

According to Dr. José María Bermúdez de Castro, director of the National Research Center on Human Evolution (CENIEH) and co-director of the Atapuerca sites, after a detailed morphological study for taxonomic and phylogenetic purposes of the jaw in question, the possibility that nor belongs to the species Homo antecessor, as speculated in the first studies that were made, or any other known species of hominids.

Almost four years ago, during the 2007 excavation campaign, a fragment of a human jaw was found at the TE9 level of the Sima del Elefante site in the Sierra de Atapuerca, a cavity located about 200 meters from the entrance of the old Trinchera from the Railroad and about 400 meters from the Gran Dolina site. The preliminary study of the mandible, ATE9-1, together with the dating of the TE9 level by means of the cosmogenic nuclide method, as well as the investigations on the lithic industry, paleontological data, and the geology of the deposit, was published on 27 December. March 2008 in the magazineNature.

During 2010, CENIEH scientists who belong to the EIA carried out avery detailed study of the jaw and teeth of this specimen, from different points of view and applying techniques such as computerized axial microtomography and electron microscope. ArticleEarly Pleistocene human mandible from Sima del Elefante (TE) cave site in Sierra de Atapuerca (Spain): A comparative morphological study?, tries to identify which human species the jaw could belong to and establish the possible kinship with other hominid species. This study of the mandible confirms the presence of primitive characters of the genus Homo on the anterior aspect of the symphysis, which it shares with the mandibles of Dmanisi (Republic of Georgia) and with the oldest Homo mandibles in Africa. However, as Dr. Bermúdez de Castro explains, “the inner face of the symphysis is very vertical and reminiscent of the jaws ofStanding manmore recent from Asia that of Zhoukoudian, and even those of our species ?. And he concludes by saying that “you could say thatlhe hominins of the Elephant Pit lost a part of their African identity and acquired a new European identity during their journey and subsequent stay at the westernmost tip of Eurasia, from regions of the Middle East “.

Dental paleopathologies

The second article? Early Pleistocene human mandible from Sima del Elefante (TE) cave site in Sierra de Atapuerca (Spain): A palaeopathological study ?, led by Dr. Martinón-Torres, is a study of the teeth that also confirms the presence of primitive characters. In particular, the geometric morphometric analysis of the second premolar reveals a primitive model, very similar to that of the premolars of the TD6 level of Gran Dolina, “Although these premolars belong to the Homo antecessor species, the evidence is still too weak to include the ATE9-1 mandible in this species “, states Dr. Martinón-Torres

In conclusion, while waiting for new data, they have preferred to include the mandible of the Sima del Elefante in Homo sp (indeterminate species) . It cannot be ruled out that the hominins of the Sima de Elefante arrived in a migratory wave from the Middle East, different from that of the hominins of Gran Dolina. If true, it would be very important to find new remains at the TE9 level, in order to determine whether or not the hominins of the Sima del Elefante belong to a species that is still unknown.


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