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Homo antecessor

Homo antecessor

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Homo antecessor is an extinct human species
Homo
Homo may refer to:*the Greek prefix ὅμο-, meaning "the same"*the Latin for man, human being*Homo, the taxonomical genus including modern humans...

  (or subspecies) dating from 1.2 million to 800,000 years ago, that was discovered by Eudald Carbonell
Eudald Carbonell
Eudald Carbonell i Roura is a Spanish archaeologist, anthropologist and paleonthologist.Educated in Girona, Barcelona and Paris, he holds a PhD in Geology of the Quaternary from Pierre and Marie Curie University and History from University of Barcelona .He is currently professor at the...

, Juan Luis Arsuaga
Juan Luis Arsuaga
Juan Luis Arsuaga Ferreras obtained a master degree and a doctorate in Biological Sciences at the Universidad Complutense de Madrid, where he is professor in the Paleontology Department of the ....

 and J. M. Bermúdez de Castro. H. antecessor is one of the earliest known human varieties in Europe
Europe
Europe is, by convention, one of the world's seven continents. Comprising the westernmost peninsula of Eurasia, Europe is generally 'divided' from Asia to its east by the watershed divides of the Ural and Caucasus Mountains, the Ural River, the Caspian and Black Seas, and the waterways connecting...

. Various archaeologists
Archaeology
Archaeology, or archeology , is the study of human society, primarily through the recovery and analysis of the material culture and environmental data that they have left behind, which includes artifacts, architecture, biofacts and cultural landscapes...

 and anthropologists
Anthropology
Anthropology is the study of humanity. It has origins in the humanities, the natural sciences, and the social sciences. The term "anthropology" is from the Greek anthrōpos , "man", understood to mean mankind or humanity, and -logia , "discourse" or "study", and was first used in 1501 by German...

have debated how H. antecessor related to other Homo species in Europe, with suggestions that it was an evolutionary link between H. ergaster
Homo ergaster
Homo ergaster is an extinct chronospecies of Homo that lived in eastern and southern Africa during the early Pleistocene, about 2.5–1.7 million years ago.There is still disagreement on the subject of the classification, ancestry, and progeny of H...

and H. heidelbergensis
Homo heidelbergensis
Homo heidelbergensis is an extinct species of the genus Homo which may be the direct ancestor of both Homo neanderthalensis in Europe and Homo sapiens. The best evidence found for these hominins date between 600,000 and 400,000 years ago. H...

, although Richard Klein believes that it was instead a separate species that evolved from H. ergaster. Others believe that H. antecessor is in fact the same species as H. heidelbergensis, who inhabited Europe from 600,000 to 250,000 years ago in the Pleistocene
Pleistocene
The Pleistocene is the epoch from 2,588,000 to 11,700 years BP that spans the world's recent period of repeated glaciations. The name pleistocene is derived from the Greek and ....

.

The best-preserved fossil is a maxilla
Maxilla
The maxilla is a fusion of two bones along the palatal fissure that form the upper jaw. This is similar to the mandible , which is also a fusion of two halves at the mental symphysis. Sometimes The maxilla (plural: maxillae) is a fusion of two bones along the palatal fissure that form the upper...

 that belonged to a 10-year-old individual found in Spain
Spain
Spain , officially the Kingdom of Spain languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Spain's official name is as follows:;;;;;;), is a country and member state of the European Union located in southwestern Europe on the Iberian Peninsula...

. Based on palaeomagnetic
Paleomagnetism
Paleomagnetism is the study of the record of the Earth's magnetic field in rocks. Certain minerals in rocks lock-in a record of the direction and intensity of the magnetic field when they form. This record provides information on the past behavior of Earth's magnetic field and the past location of...

 measurements, it is thought to be older than 780–857 ka. The average brain was 1,000 cm³ in volume. In 1994 and 1995, 80 fossils of six individuals that may have belonged to the species were found in Atapuerca
Atapuerca
The Atapuerca Mountains is an ancient karstic region of Spain, in the province of Burgos and near Atapuerca and Ibeas de Juarros. It contains several caves, where fossils and stone tools of the earliest known Hominins in West Europe have been found. The earliest hominids may have dated to 1.2...

, Spain. At the site were numerous examples of cuts where the flesh had been flensed from the bones, which indicates that H. antecessor may have practised cannibalism
Cannibalism
Cannibalism is the act or practice of humans eating the flesh of other human beings. It is also called anthropophagy...

.

Physiology



H. antecessor was about 1.6-1.8 m (5½-6 feet) tall, and males weighed roughly 90 kg (200 pounds). Their brain sizes were roughly 1,000–1,150 cm³, smaller than the 1,350 cm³ average of modern humans. Due to its scarcity, very little more is known about the physiology of H. antecessor, yet it was likely to have been more robust
Robustness (morphology)
In biology, robustness is used to describe a species with a morphology based on strength and a heavy build. The alternative morphology is the 'gracile' body type. For example, comparing similar species, rats have robust body types while mice are gracile. Male and females of the same species may...

 than H. heidelbergensis. According to Juan Luis Arsuaga, one of the co-directors of the excavation in Burgos, H. antecessor might have been right-handed, a trait that makes the species different from the other apes. This hypothesis is based on tomography
Tomography
Tomography refers to imaging by sections or sectioning, through the use of any kind of penetrating wave. A device used in tomography is called a tomograph, while the image produced is a tomogram. The method is used in radiology, archaeology, biology, geophysics, oceanography, materials science,...

 techniques. Arsuaga also claims that the frequency range of audition is similar to H. sapiens
Human
Humans are the only living species in the Homo genus...

, which makes him believe that H. antecessor used a symbolic language and was able to reason. Arsuaga's team is currently pursuing a DNA map of H. antecessor after elucidating that of a bear that lived in northern Spain some 500,000 years ago.

Based on teeth eruption pattern, the researchers think that H. antecessor had the same development stages as H. sapiens, though probably at a faster pace. Other features acquired by the species are a protruding occipital bun
Occipital bun
Occipital bun is a morphological term used to describe a prominent bulge, or projection, of the occipital bone at the back of the skull. The term is most often used in connection with scientific descriptions of classic Neanderthal crania...

, a low forehead and a lack of a strong chin. Some of the remains are almost indistinguishable from the fossil attributable to the 1.5 million year old Turkana Boy
Turkana Boy
Turkana Boy, also occasionally, Nariokotome Boy is the common name of fossil KNM-WT 15000, a nearly complete skeleton of a hominid who died in the early Pleistocene. This specimen is the most complete early human skeleton ever found. It is 1.5 million years old...

, belonging to H. ergaster.

Fossil sites


The only known fossils of H. antecessor are from two sites in the Sierra de Atapuerca
Atapuerca
The Atapuerca Mountains is an ancient karstic region of Spain, in the province of Burgos and near Atapuerca and Ibeas de Juarros. It contains several caves, where fossils and stone tools of the earliest known Hominins in West Europe have been found. The earliest hominids may have dated to 1.2...

 region of northern Spain (Gran Dolina and Sima del Elefante).

Gran Dolina


Archaeologist Eudald Carbonell i Roura of the Universidad Rovira i Virgili in Tarragona
Tarragona
Tarragona is a city located in the south of Catalonia on the north-east of Spain, by the Mediterranean. It is the capital of the Spanish province of the same name and the capital of the Catalan comarca Tarragonès. In the medieval and modern times it was the capital of the Vegueria of Tarragona...

, Spain
Spain
Spain , officially the Kingdom of Spain languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Spain's official name is as follows:;;;;;;), is a country and member state of the European Union located in southwestern Europe on the Iberian Peninsula...

 and palaeoanthropologist Juan Luis Arsuaga Ferreras of the Complutense University of Madrid
Complutense University of Madrid
The Complutense University of Madrid is a university in Madrid, and one of the oldest universities in the world. It is located on a sprawling campus that occupies the entirety of the Ciudad Universitaria district of Madrid, with annexes in the district of Somosaguas in the neighboring city of...

 discovered Homo antecessor remains at the Gran Dolina site in the Sierra de Atapuerca
Atapuerca
The Atapuerca Mountains is an ancient karstic region of Spain, in the province of Burgos and near Atapuerca and Ibeas de Juarros. It contains several caves, where fossils and stone tools of the earliest known Hominins in West Europe have been found. The earliest hominids may have dated to 1.2...

, east of Burgos
Burgos
Burgos is a city of northern Spain, historic capital of Castile. It is situated at the edge of the central plateau, with about 178,966 inhabitants in the city proper and another 20,000 in its suburbs. It is the capital of the province of Burgos, in the autonomous community of Castile and León...

. The H. antecessor remains have been found in level 6 (TF6) of the Gran Dolina site. Over 80 bone fragments from six individuals were uncovered in 1994 and 1995. The site had also included roughly 200 stone tools and about 300 animal bones. Stone tools including a stone carved knife were found along with the ancient hominin remains. All these remains were dated at least 780,000 years old. The best-preserved remains are a maxilla
Maxilla
The maxilla is a fusion of two bones along the palatal fissure that form the upper jaw. This is similar to the mandible , which is also a fusion of two halves at the mental symphysis. Sometimes The maxilla (plural: maxillae) is a fusion of two bones along the palatal fissure that form the upper...

 (upper jawbone) and a frontal bone
Frontal bone
The frontal bone is a bone in the human skull that resembles a cockleshell in form, and consists of two portions:* a vertical portion, the squama frontalis, corresponding with the region of the forehead....

 of an individual who died at the age of 10–11.

Sima del Elefante


On June 29th, 2007, Spanish researchers working at the Sima del Elefante site in the Atapuerca Mountains (Spain) announced that they had recovered a molar dated to 1.1–1.2 million years ago. The molar was described as "well worn" and from an individual between 20 and 25 years of age. Additional findings announced on 27 March 2008 included the discovery of a mandible fragment, stone flakes, and evidence of animal bone processing.

Suffolk, England


In 2005 flint tools and teeth from the water vole Mimomys Savini, a key dating species, were found in the cliffs at Pakefield
Pakefield
Pakefield is a suburb of the town of Lowestoft in the Waveney District of the English county of Suffolk. Pakefield is located around 2 miles south of the centre of the town. Although today it forms a suburb of the urban area of Lowestoft, it was until 1934 a village and parish in its own right....

 near Lowestoft in Suffolk. This suggests that hominins can be dated in England to 700,000 years ago, potentially a cross between Homo Antecessor
Homo antecessor
Homo antecessor is an extinct human species dating from 1.2 million to 800,000 years ago, that was discovered by Eudald Carbonell, Juan Luis Arsuaga and J. M. Bermúdez de Castro. H. antecessor is one of the earliest known human varieties in Europe. Various archaeologists and anthropologists have...

 and Homo Heidelbergensis
Homo heidelbergensis
Homo heidelbergensis is an extinct species of the genus Homo which may be the direct ancestor of both Homo neanderthalensis in Europe and Homo sapiens. The best evidence found for these hominins date between 600,000 and 400,000 years ago. H...

.

Norfolk, England


In 2010 stone tools finds were reported in Happisburgh, Norfolk, England, believed to have been used by H. antecessor, suggesting that the early hominin species also lived in England about 950,000 years ago – the earliest known population of the genus Homo in Northern Europe.

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