[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Studies of sensory capacities in past life forms have offered new insights into their adaptations and lifeways. Audition is particularly amenable to study in fossils because it is strongly related to physical properties that can be approached through their skeletal structures. We have studied the anatomy of the outer and middle ear in the early hominin taxa Australopithecus africanus and Paranthropus robustus and estimated their auditory capacities. Compared with chimpanzees , the early hominin taxa are derived toward modern humans in their slightly shorter and wider external auditory canal, smaller tympanic membrane, and lower malleus/incus lever ratio, but they remain primitive in the small size of their stapes footplate. Compared with chimpanzees, both early hominin taxa show a heightened sensitivity to frequencies between 1.5 and 3.5 kHz and an occupied band of maximum sensitivity that is shifted toward slightly higher frequencies. The results have implications for sensory ecology and communication, and suggest that the early hominin auditory pattern may have facilitated an increased emphasis on short-range vocal communication in open habitats.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The preservation of Homo fossil foot remains prior to modern humans and Neandertals is very scarce throughout the fossil record. Understanding foot morphology in human evolution is essential to know
taxonomic processes and to acquiring information about corporal size. Here, we present a comprehensive
study of the large foot remains sample recovered from the Middle Pleistocene site of Sima de los Huesos
(SH). The minimum number of individuals (MNI) has been established at 16 by the foot remains. As is the
case with other elements of the foot, metric and morphological differences in the feet between Middle and
Late Pleistocene hominins tend to be subtle. However, an exclusive combination of traits can be recognized
in the feet of the SH hominins. The SH hominins and Neandertals display tali with short necks and broad
lateral malleolar facets, broad calcanei with long bodies and projected sustentaculum tali, stout naviculars,
as well as robust metatarsals and phalanges. Nevertheless, the feet from SH are characterized by a very
broad lateral malleolar facet in the talus and a very broad sustentaculum tali in the calcaneus, even more so
than in Neandertals with respect to both traits. More importantly, the head of the talus from SH is narrower
than the Neandertal's broad talus head, and the short intermediate cuneiforms found at SH distinguish
them from the other comparative samples. The bodymass estimation based on the trochlear breadth of the
talus provides a mean of 69.7 ± 10.0 kg for the SH hominins, similar to that determined by the femoral head
and significantly lower than that obtained from the bi-iliac breadth.
Quaternary International 09/2015; DOI:10.1016/j.quaint.2015.08.044 · 2.06 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The consequences of the Neolithic transition in Europe-one of the most important cultural changes in human prehistory-is a subject of great interest. However, its effect on prehistoric and modern-day people in Iberia, the westernmost frontier of the European continent, remains unresolved. We present, to our knowledge, the first genome-wide sequence data from eight human remains, dated to between 5,500 and 3,500 years before present, excavated in the El Portalón cave at Sierra de Atapuerca, Spain. We show that these individuals emerged from the same ancestral gene pool as early farmers in other parts of Europe, suggesting that migration was the dominant mode of transferring farming practices throughout western Eurasia. In contrast to central and northern early European farmers, the Chalcolithic El Portalón individuals additionally mixed with local southwestern hunter-gatherers. The proportion of hunter-gatherer-related admixture into early farmers also increased over the course of two millennia. The Chalcolithic El Portalón individuals showed greatest genetic affinity to modern-day Basques, who have long been considered linguistic and genetic isolates linked to the Mesolithic whereas all other European early farmers show greater genetic similarity to modern-day Sardinians. These genetic links suggest that Basques and their language may be linked with the spread of agriculture during the Neolithic. Furthermore, all modern-day Iberian groups except the Basques display distinct admixture with Caucasus/Central Asian and North African groups, possibly related to historical migration events. The El Portalón genomes uncover important pieces of the demographic history of Iberia and Europe and reveal how prehistoric groups relate to modern-day people.
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 09/2015; DOI:10.1073/pnas.1509851112 · 9.67 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: In this study, a new Early Pleistocene proximal hand phalanx (ATE9-2) from the Sima del Elefante cave site (TE – Sierra de Atapuerca, Spain), ascribed to Homo sp., is presented and comparatively described in the context of the evolution of the genus Homo. The ATE9-2 specimen is especially important because of the paucity of hand bones in the human fossil record during the Early Pleistocene. The morphological and metrical analyses of the phalanx ATE9-2 indicate that there are no essential differences between it and comparator fossil specimens for the genus Homo after 1.3 Ma (millions of years ago). Similar to Sima de los Huesos and Neandertal specimens, ATE9-2 is a robust proximal hand phalanx, probably reflecting greater overall body robusticity in these populations or a higher gracility in modern humans. The age of level TE9 from Sima del Elefante and morphological and metrical studies of ATE9-2 suggest that the morphology of the proximal hand phalanges and, thus, the morphology of the hand could have remained stable over the last 1.2–1.3 Ma. Taking into account the evidence recently provided by a metacarpal from Kaitio (Kenya) from around 1.42 Ma, we argue that modern hand morphology is present in the genus Homo subsequent to Homo habilis.
Journal of Human Evolution 09/2015; 78:114-121. DOI:10.1016/j.jhevol.2014.08.007 · 3.73 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Current knowledge of the evolution of the postcranial skeleton in the genus Homo is hampered by a geographically and chronologically scattered fossil record. Here we present a complete characterization of the postcranium of the middle Pleistocene paleodeme from the Sima de los Huesos (SH) and its paleobiological implications. The SH hominins show the following: (i) wide bodies, a plesiomorphic character in the genus Homo inherited from their early hominin ancestors; (ii) statures that can be found in modern human middle-latitude populations that first appeared 1.6-1.5 Mya; and (iii) large femoral heads in some individuals, a trait that first appeared during the middle Pleistocene in Africa and Europe. The intrapopulational size variation in SH shows that the level of dimorphism was similar to modern humans (MH), but the SH hominins were less encephalized than Neandertals. SH shares many postcranial anatomical features with Neandertals. Although most of these features appear to be either plesiomorphic retentions or are of uncertain phylogenetic polarity, a few represent Neandertal apomorphies. Nevertheless, the full suite of Neandertal-derived features is not yet present in the SH population. The postcranial evidence is consistent with the hypothesis based on the cranial morphology that the SH hominins are a sister group to the later Neandertals. Comparison of the SH postcranial skeleton to other hominins suggests that the evolution of the postcranium occurred in a mosaic mode, both at a general and at a detailed level.
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 08/2015; DOI:10.1073/pnas.1514828112 · 9.67 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: This work presents the results from the excavation of a multiple burial in a pseudo-tumular structure constructed in the Cueva Mayor cave in the Sierra de Atapuerca (Burgos), specifically focusing on the entrance of this cave in an area known as El Portalón archaeological site. We recovered the skeletal remains of a minimum of eight individuals from several altered primary burials with bones showing different levels of associated grave goods and faunal remains. A series of radiocarbon dates obtained from seeds, human and animal bones, place these burials at the end of the fifth millennium BP. The domestic animals and ceramics suggest a complex and symbolic human–animal relationship. The information obtained from the site of El Portalón significantly broadens our understanding of funerary rituals during the Chalcolithic period.
Quaternary International 07/2015; in press. DOI:10.1016/j.quaint.2015.06.063 · 2.06 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Evidence of interpersonal violence has been documented previously in Pleistocene mem- bers of the genus Homo, but only very rarely has this been posited as the possible manner of death. Here we report the earliest evidence of lethal interpersonal violence in the hominin fossil record. Cranium 17 recovered from the Sima de los Huesos Middle Pleistocene site shows two clear perimortem depression fractures on the frontal bone, interpreted as being produced by two episodes of localized blunt force trauma. The type of injuries, their location, the strong similarity of the fractures in shape and size, and the different orientations and im- plied trajectories of the two fractures suggest they were produced with the same object in face-to-face interpersonal conflict. Given that either of the two traumatic events was likely lethal, the presence of multiple blows implies an intention to kill. This finding shows that the lethal interpersonal violence is an ancient human behavior and has important implications for the accumulation of bodies at the site, supporting an anthropic origin.
PLoS ONE 05/2015; 10(5):e0126589. DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0126589 · 3.23 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Ages based on independent methods, such as combined ESR-U series, luminescence, and magnetostratigraphic analyses have been obtained for the upper stratigraphical section of Gran Dolina site (TD6 to TD11 levels). However, the chronostratigraphical framework of this European Paleolithic key site remains incomplete because of its great antiquity and the lack of reliable methods. This paper provides new radiometric dates by electron spin resonance applied to optically bleached quartz grains for the whole stratigraphic sequence. The results agree with the previous chronostratigraphical framework for the upper part of the stratigraphical sequence. The ages for the Homo antecessor remains from TD6 layer range between 800 and 900 ka. The lowest layers attributed to endogenous sediments (TD1) could be contemporaneous with the Sima del Elefante TE9 human bearing layer dated to 1.2 Ma. The results suggest a human occupation of possibly more than 1 Ma at the Gran Dolina site. This study confirms moreover the potential of ESR dating method applied on quartz in karstic environment.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Three sites at the Calvero de la Higuera complex (Camino Cave, Navalmaíllo Rock Shelter, and Buena Pinta Cave), near the village of Pinilla del Valle (Madrid, Spain), are known for their record of Neanderthals and other Late Pleistocene mammals. Occasionally, they also yield much more ancient reworked remains, which come from the Upper Cretaceous dolomites and carbonatic sandstones in which these caves and shelters are developed. These are mostly teeth of sharks and rays and vertebrae and teeth of bony fishes, but several reptile vertebrae and teeth have also been found. These reptile remains, which we describe here, likely belong to the pythonomorph incertae sedis Carentonosaurus cf. mineaui. This taxon is known from several outcrops in the southwest of France but is rare on the Iberian Peninsula; indeed, only a few remains possibly related to the genus have been found (in the Cabaña Formation, Asturias, Spain). The pythonomorph remains discussed here are the first fossils of marine reptiles from the Madrid region. Should the assignment to Carentonosaurus be confirmed, the teeth would provide novel data on the characteristics of this rather poorly known taxon, and might help clarify its phylogenetic relationship within Pythonomorpha.
Cretaceous Research 05/2015; 54. DOI:10.1016/j.cretres.2014.12.010 · 1.90 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The Sima de Los Huesos (SH) is one of the many archaeo-palaeontological sites in the Sierra de Atapuerca. The characteristics of this palaeoanthropological site are unusual, due to the large size of the hominin accumulation and its location far from the karst entrances, at least today. In order to investigate the geological processes involved in the site formation and their relation to the hominin deposit, we have performed a study of the stratigraphical sequence and depositional history of SH. Analysis and correlation of the identified layers has allowed us to redefine the depositional structure of the site based on twelve lithostratigraphic units, which can be further grouped into five allostratigraphic units delimited by erosional boundaries. The results show that there was only one stratigraphic event of hominin accumulation. Cave bears and other carnivores occur with the hominin fossils in the same layer, but carnivores continued accumulating above the hominin deposit in an overlying layer. Our findings also argue against the hypothesis that the hominin or carnivore bones were transported to SH from a locus of primary accumulation remote from their present day location. The present study also reveals that, at the time of the hominin and carnivore fossil accumulations, the only possible access to the SH chamber was a deep vertical conduit, which was impossible to climb.
Quaternary International 03/2015; In press. DOI:10.1016/j.quaint.2015.02.044 · 2.06 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The Iberian lynx, endemic to the Iberian Peninsula, is the most threatened carnivore in Europe and the most endangered felid in the world. Widely distributed throughout Iberia during the Pleistocene and Holocene it is now confined to two small populations in southern Spain. Lynx species differentiation, based solely on morphological analysis from skeletal traits, is a difficult task and can potentially lead to misidentification. In order to verify whether Iberian lynx had a wider geographical distribution in the past, we successfully sequenced 152 base pairs (bp) of the cytochrome b gene and 183 bp of the mitochondrial control region in 20 Late Pleistocene and Holocene fossil remains of Lynx sp. from southern Europe. Our results confirm the presence of Iberian lynx outside the Iberian Peninsula demonstrating that this is a palaeoendemic species that had a wider distribution range in southern Europe during the Holocene and the Late Pleistocene. In addition, we documented the presence of both Palaearctic extant lynx species in the Arene Candide (north Italy) site during the Last Glacial Maximum.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Fracture pattern analysis implement the taphonomic information obtained and it help understanding the largest accumulation of human remains from the Middle Pleistocene known, the Sima de los Huesos (SH) sample. The SH hominin long bones exhibit a fracture pattern characterized especially by the dominance of transverse fractures of the long axis, complete circumferences and fracture edges with right angles and jagged surfaces. These properties are expected for post-depositional fractures and are compatible with collective burial assemblages. The very small proportion of fractures typical of biostratinomic stage could be due to a blunt force trauma produced by a free-fall down the vertical 13 m shaft that constitutes the access to the SH chamber.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: In the Sima de los Huesos Middle Pleistocene site more than 6500 human fossils have been recovered to date. They represent a minimum of 28 individuals and have been considered ancestors of Neandertals. All skeletal elements are represented in the Sima de los Huesos sample, and more than 500 specimens belong to the foot. Here we present the analysis of two nearly complete feet (Foot 1 & Foot 2) from within the collection. They are comprised of 23 tarsal and metatarsal bones that belonged to a fully adult, probably male, individual.
Morphologically, this individual displays robust and broad feet. Moreover, both feet show broad lateral talar malleolar surfaces, broad calcanei, stout naviculars and robust metatarsals. These two feet are indistinguishable from thoseof modern humans in the implied locomotor capabilities and similar in overall size and proportions. However, the robusticity and some metrical traits help us to differentiate them from
modern human populations. Based on regression equations of modern humans, a stature of around 173-174 cm has been calculated for this individual. The chronology of around of 430 ka for the site, and the results of this study make this association the oldest robust modern-like feet in the genus Homo.
84th Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists, Saint Louis (USA); 01/2015
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The study of wear marks on Palaeolithic quartz tools allows an understanding of how they were used.
The present work reports a functional study of a sample of Mousterian quartz industry from Level F of the
Navalmaíllo Rock Shelter (Pinilla del Valle, Madrid, Spain). This level, a palimpsest, preserves the remains
of a Neanderthal occupation. Traceological inspection revealed the tools made at the site were very
Quaternary International 01/2015; DOI:10.1016/j.quaint.2015.08.052 · 2.06 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: El objetivo de este trabajo es la aproximación a la gestión del ganado ovicaprino
en los niveles del Calcolítico y Bronce del yacimiento de El Portalón
(Sierra de Atapuerca, Burgos)a partir del análisis zooarqueológico y tafonómico
de los restos óseos de las ovejas y cabras. En el nivel calcolítico de
El Portalón la explotación de esta cabaña ganadera está enfocada hacia la
obtención de productos secundarios (lana, leche, productos lácteos), complementada
con el consumo de la carne, como sucede en otros yacimientos
calcolíticos peninsulares. En el Bronce de El Portalón esta explotación está
enfocada, principalmente al consumo de la carne (61,9%), y en menor medida
hacia la obtención de productos secundarios (38,1%). En yacimientos
peninsulares de esta cronología se observa una dualidad en la explotación
de los ovicaprinos, con algunos en los que está orientada hacia los productos
primarios (Este y Norte de España) y otros hacia productos secundarios
(yacimientos argáricos del Sureste peninsular).