Sima cave people not exactly Neanderthals, researchers say
|June 24, 2014||Posted by News under Human evolution, News|
“What makes the Sima de los Huesos site unique,” Arsuaga said, “is the extraordinary and unprecedented accumulation of hominin fossils there; nothing quite so big has ever been discovered for any extinct hominin species — including Neanderthals.”
“This site has been excavated continuously since 1984,” Martínez added. “After thirty years, we have recovered nearly 7,000 human fossils corresponding to all skeletal regions of at least 28 individuals. This extraordinary collection includes 17 fragmentary skulls, many of which are very complete.”
From this, they deduce that
“We think based on the morphology that the Sima people were part of the Neanderthal clade,” Arsuaga said, “although not necessarily direct ancestors to the classic Neanderthals.” They were part of an early European lineage that includes Neanderthals, but is more primitive than the later Pleistocene variety.
Critically, many of the Neandertal-derived features the researchers observed were related to mastication, or chewing. “It seems these modifications had to do with an intensive use of the frontal teeth,” Arsuaga said. “The incisors show a great wear as if they had been used as a ‘third hand,” typical of Neanderthals.”
The work of Arsuaga et al. suggests that facial modification was the first step in Neandertal evolution. This mosaic pattern fits the prediction of the accretion model.
This story is interesting from the perspective that it is written as if it were some kind of history when it is at most guesses based on fragments, and the next team reporting may well say something quite different.
Fascinating if you don’t take it too seriously.
Here’s a handy guide to the complexities surrounding human evolution: The Science Fictions series at your fingertips (human evolution)
The Little Lady of Flores spoke from the grave. But said what, exactly?
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