[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Complete radii in the fossil record preceding recent humans and Neandertals are very scarce. Here we introduce the radial remains recovered from the Sima de los Huesos (SH) site in the Sierra de Atapuerca between 1976 and 2011 and which have been dated in excess of 430 ky (thousands of years) ago. The sample comprises 89 specimens, 49 of which are attributed to adults representing a minimum of seven individuals. All elements are described anatomically and metrically, and compared with other fossil hominins and recent humans in order to examine the phylogenetic polarity of certain radial features. Radial remains from SH have some traits that differentiate them from those of recent humans and make them more similar to Neandertals, including strongly curved shafts, anteroposterior expanded radial heads and both absolutely and relatively long necks. In contrast, the SH sample differs from Neandertals in showing a high overall gracility as well as a high frequency (80%) of an anteriorly oriented radial tuberosity. Thus, like the cranial and dental remains from the SH site, characteristic Neandertal radial morphology is not present fully in the SH radii. We also analyzed the cross-sectional properties of the SH radial sample at two different levels: mid-shaft and at the midpoint of the neck length. When standardized by shaft length, no difference in the mid-shaft cross-sectional properties were found between the SH hominins, Neandertals and recent humans. Nevertheless, due to their long neck length, the SH hominins show a higher lever efficiency than either Neandertals or recent humans. Functionally, the SH radial morphology is consistent with more efficient pronation-supination and flexion-extension movements. The particular trait composition in the SH sample and Neandertals resembles more closely morphology evident in recent human males.
Full-text · Article · Jan 2016 · Journal of Human Evolution
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: We performed 3D virtual reconstructions based on CT scans to study the bony labyrinth morphology in 14 individuals from the large middle Pleistocene hominin sample from the site of the Sima de los Huesos (SH) in the Sierra de Atapuerca in northern Spain. The Atapuerca (SH) hominins represent early members of the Neandertal clade and provide an opportunity to compare the data with the later in time Neandertals, as well as Pleistocene and recent humans more broadly. The Atapuerca (SH) hominins do not differ from the Neandertals in any of the variables related to the absolute and relative sizes and shape of the semicircular canals. Indeed, the entire Neandertal clade seems to be characterized by a derived pattern of canal proportions, including a relatively small posterior canal and a relatively large lateral canal. In contrast, one of the most distinctive features observed in Neandertals, the low placement of the posterior canal (i.e., high sagittal labyrinthine index), is generally not present in the Atapuerca (SH) hominins. This low placement is considered a derived feature in Neandertals and is correlated with a more vertical orientation of the ampullar line (LSCm < APA), posterior surface of the petrous pyramid (LSCm > PPp), and third part of the facial canal (LSCm < FC3). Some variation is present within the Atapuerca (SH) sample, however, with a few individuals approaching the Neandertal condition more closely. In addition, the cochlear shape index in the Atapuerca (SH) hominins is low, indicating a reduction in the height of the cochlea. Although the phylogenetic polarity of this feature is less clear, the low shape index in the Atapuerca (SH) hominins may be a derived feature. Regardless, cochlear height subsequently increased in Neandertals. In contrast to previous suggestions, the expanded data in the present study indicate no difference across the genus Homo in the angle of inclination of the cochlear basal turn (COs < LSCm).
Full-text · Article · Jan 2016 · Journal of Human Evolution
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Although the Iberian Peninsula has been proposed as a possible focus of horse domestication during the Metal Age, zooarchaeological evidence of this process is scarce due to the very reduced samples of horses found at sites from this period. In this context, El Portalón from Cueva Mayor (Atapuerca Mountain Range, Burgos, Spain) is one of the most important sites for the study of Bronze Age horses because of the high number of horse remains identified there.In this work, taxonomic, zooarchaeological and preliminary taphonomic studies of the equid remains from the Early and Middle Bronze Age levels of this site have been carried out. As a result, it is confirmed that just one species, the horse, is represented in these levels. Due to the absence of direct criteria in the sample to distinguish between wild and domestic horses, the equid from El Portalón has been classified as Equus sp. gr. Equus ferus/Equus caballus.The butchery marks, the fire alteration, the fracture pattern and the percussion damage, observed on horse bone remains, indicate the human consumption of horses during the Early Bronze Age and the Middle Bronze Age level of the El Portalón site. The mortality profile is focused on consumption of the foal meat, in contrast with the management of this species in the majority of the Iberian sites of similar age. The large accumulation of equid remains and the role horses play at Bronze Age levels of El Portalón is notable and makes it one of the most significant sites from the Bronze Age in the Iberian Peninsula context.
Full-text · Article · Dec 2015 · Quaternary International
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Ancient DNA makes it possible to observe natural selection directly by analysing samples from populations before, during and after adaptation events. Here we report a genome-wide scan for selection using ancient DNA, capitalizing on the largest ancient DNA data set yet assembled: 230 West Eurasians who lived between 6500 and 300 bc, including 163 with newly reported data. The new samples include, to our knowledge, the first genome-wide ancient DNA from Anatolian Neolithic farmers, whose genetic material we obtained by extracting from petrous bones, and who we show were members of the population that was the source of Europe's first farmers. We also report a transect of the steppe region in Samara between 5600 and 300 bc, which allows us to identify admixture into the steppe from at least two external sources. We detect selection at loci associated with diet, pigmentation and immunity, and two independent episodes of selection on height.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Two complete skulls of Ursus deningeri, one recovered from the Middle Pleistocene site of the Sima de los Huesos in the Sierra de Atapuerca (Spain), and the other one from Petralona (Chalkidiki, Greece), were reconstructed through computed tomography. The cranial morphology of U. deningeri was analysed using dual “traditional” and geometric morphometric and compared to extinct and extant Ursidae (Ursus spelaeus, Ursus arctos, and Ursus americanus). The goal of this work was to explore the variation in skull morphology between these different taxa. The analysis presented here indicates that combined traditional and geometric morphometric methods could be useful for a taxonomic approach. In this preliminary study, in which only 2D information is used, it is possible to distinguish the three bear lineages presented here. U. deningeri occupies an intermediate position between the U. spelaeus and U. arctos, which supports an early evolutionary stage of U. deningeri within the cave bear phylogenetic lineage. This study establishes that genera of the Ursus can be differentiated based on cranial shape. Combined studies with computed tomography, traditional and geometric morphometrics of endocraneal remains will provide important new evidence about diet, taxonomical and biochronological studies.
Full-text · Article · Dec 2015 · Quaternary International
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: This paper reports the first find of pika remains in the Iberian Peninsula, at a site in central Spain. A fragmented mandible of Ochotona cf. pusilla was unearthed from Layer 3 (deposited some 63.4±5.5 ka ago as determined by thermoluminescence) of the Buena Pinta Cave. This record establishes new limits for the genus geographic distribution during the Pleistocene, shifting the previous edge of its known range southwest by some 500 km. It also supports the idea that, even though Europe's alpine mountain ranges represented a barrier that prevented the dispersal into the south to this and other taxa of small mammals from central and eastern Europe, they were crossed or circumvented at the coldest time intervals of the end of the Middle Pleistocene and of the Late Pleistocene. During those periods both the reduction of the forest cover and the emersion of large areas of the continental shelf due to the drop of the sea level probably provided these species a way to surpass this barrier. The pika mandible was found accompanying the remains of other small mammals adapted to cold climates, indicating the presence of steppe environments in central Iberia during the Late Pleistocene.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: This study investigates handedness in a group of individuals from the Sima de los Huesos site (Atapuerca, Spain). In this research, handedness has been studied by analyzing the brain endocast asymmetries (cerebral evidence), and the results (the assignment, of the manual preference in each individual) have been compared to previous results from the determination of handedness from labial striations on the anterior dentition in the same individuals. From the dental analysis, all individuals from SH were right-handed. After combining the results of both studies, 4 individuals could be analyzed in depth. In 3 of these individuals, the assignment of probable handedness was coincident. The results did not coincide in just 1 individual (Cranium 6). In this specimen, labial striations indicated a right oblique orientation consistent with right-handedness, but this was not consistent with our results from the endocast analysis. The existence of some pathology in the natural skilled hand, learning by imitation from right-handers, or ambidextrous handedness are some of the interpretations derived from this special case.
Preview · Article · Nov 2015 · Quaternary International
[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.
No preview · Article · Sep 2015 · Quaternary International
[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.
Full-text · Article · Sep 2015 · Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
[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.
Full-text · Article · Sep 2015 · Journal of Human Evolution
[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
No preview · Article · Sep 2015 · Quaternary International
[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.
Full-text · Article · Aug 2015 · Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Since the Atapuerca fossil samples are the most representative remains to understand the evolution of the genus Homo in Europe during the Early and Middle Pleistocene, the study of their dentition is becoming increasingly important. Based on these findings, recent studies have helped to refine the evolutionary hypotheses about the settlement of Europe proposing a less linear settlement of the continent with several migrations and/or interbreeding of these groups (Martinón-Torres et al., 2007; Bermúdez de Castro and Martinón-Torres, 2013; Meyer et al., 2014). Here, we deal with the affinities between the Early and the Middle Pleistocene populations of Europe by studying the dental morphology of these groups with microtomography (microCT). The aim with this report is to present for the first time the trigonid crest pattern exhibited by the Early Pleistocene hominins from Gran Dolina-TD6 assigned to Homo antecessor species. For this purpose, and knowing that the molar trigonid crest pattern bears a significant taxonomic and phylogenetic value, we also present a comparative study of this trait at the outer enamel surface (OES) and enamel dentine junction (EDJ) of H. antecessor, Sima de los Huesos (SH), H. neanderthalensis and H. sapiens. Further morphological comparisons among them will help to provide new and valuable information to investigate the evolutionary scenario of the first European settlement. Our study ratifies the similarities between SH and H. neanderthalensis in the expression of a continuous mid-trigonid crests at the enamel and dentine surfaces. However, this feature cannot be considered a Neanderthal apomorphy since it can be also found in lower frequencies in the Gran Dolina hominins. Thus, H. antecessor would be phenetically closer to H. sapiens who would have preserved a primitive pattern.
Full-text · Article · Aug 2015 · Quaternary International
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: In the Iberian Peninsula, the Late Pleistocene record of small mammal indicators of cold climates is largely restricted to two sets of sites at the eastern and western ends of the Pyrenees. Some assemblages from other sites at the Peninsular centre have, however, recently yielded such taxa. This work describes the remains of three such rodent species from the Buena Pinta Cave, a site in the Sierra de Guadarrama mountains in the Spanish Central System. Excavation campaigns in the cave have taken place every summer since 2003. Thermoluminescence analyses of sediments from levels 2-5 of the site suggest an age corresponding to the middle of the Late Pleistocene, within Marine Isotope Stage 4 or the beginning of Marine Isotope Stage 3. Sieve-washing and picking out of the small fossils contained in the sediments of levels 2-5 yielded several thousand small mammal teeth and other remains, dominated by Microtus arvalis. Smaller numbers of remains belonging to other rodents typical of cold climates were also identified, such as Microtus oeconomus, Microtus gregalis and Chionomys nivalis. Thus, the small mammal record of the Buena Pinta Cave shows that rodent indicators of cold climates reached the centre of the Iberian Peninsula during the mid-Late Pleistocene, i.e., well before the Last Glacial Maximum. These findings represent one of the southernmost Pleistocene records for M.oeconomus in Europe, and the most southerly for M.gregalis.
No preview · Article · Aug 2015 · Comptes Rendus Palevol
[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.
Full-text · Article · Jul 2015 · Quaternary International