_HOMO ANTECESSOR_ is an extinct human species (or subspecies) dating
from 1.2 million to 800,000 years ago, that was discovered by Eudald
Juan Luis Arsuaga
Juan Luis Arsuagaand J. M. Bermúdez de Castro. "The
unique mix of modern and primitive traits led the researchers to deem
the fossils a new species, _H. antecessor_, in 1997". Regarding its
great age the species must be related to
Out of Africa I, the first
series of hominin expansions into
Eurasia, making it one of the
earliest known human species in
The genus name _Homo_ is the Latin word for "human" whereas the
species name _antecessor_ is a Latin word meaning "explorer",
"pioneer" or "early settler", assigned to emphasize the belief that
these people belonged to the earliest migratory waves as yet known
from the European continent.
Various archaeologists and anthropologists have debated how _H.
antecessor_ relates to other _Homo_ species in Europe, with
suggestions that it was an evolutionary link between _H. ergaster _
and _H. heidelbergensis _. Some anthropologists suggest _H.
antecessor_ may be the last common ancestor of modern humans and
Neanderthals (via _
Homoheidelbergensis_) because _H. antecessor_ has
a combination of primitive traits typical of earlier _Homo_ and unique
features seen in neither Neanderthals or _
Richard Klein argues that it was a separate species that evolved from
Some scientists consider _H. antecessor_ to be the same species as
_H. heidelbergensis_, who inhabited
Europefrom 600,000 to 250,000
years ago in the
Pleistocene. As a complete skull has yet to be
unearthed, only fourteen fragments and lower jaw bones exist, these
scholars point to the fact, that "most of the known _H. antecessor_
specimens represent children" as "most of the features tying _H.
antecessor_ to modern people were found in juveniles, whose bodies and
physical features change as they grow up and go through puberty.
It’s possible that _H. antecessor_ adults didn’t really look much
like _H. sapiens_ at all".
The best-preserved fossil is a maxilla that belonged to a
ten-year-old individual found in
Spain. Based on palaeomagnetic
measurements, it is thought to be older than 857–780 ka . In 1994
and 1995, 80 fossils of six individuals who may have belonged to the
species were found in Atapuerca , 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 practiced cannibalism .
Footprints presumed to be from _H. antecessor_ dating to more than
800,000 years ago have been found at Happisburgh on the coast of
* 1 Interpretation and phylogeny
* 2 Physiology
* 3 Fossil sites
* 3.1 Gran Dolina
* 3.2 Sima del Elefante
* 3.3 Suffolk, England
* 3.4 Norfolk, England
* 3.5 Lézignan-la-Cèbe,
* 4 See also
* 5 References
* 6 Notes
* 7 External links
INTERPRETATION AND PHYLOGENY
Humantimeline view • discuss • edit -10 — – -9 — –
-8 — – -7 — – -6 — – -5 — – -4 — – -3 — – -2
— – -1 — – 0 — Human-like
Australopithecus_ _HOMO HABILIS _
_HOMO ERECTUS _ _NEANDERTHAL _ _HOMO SAPIENS _
← Earlier apes ← Possibly bipedal ← Earliest
bipedal ← Earliest stone tools ← Earliest exit
from Africa ← Earliest fire use ← Earliest cooking
← Earliest clothes ← Modern humans
Axis scale : millions of years .
Also see: _Life timeline _ and _Nature timeline _
_H. antecessor's_ discoverers—including José Bermúdez de Castro
of Spain’s National Museum of Natural Sciences , Juan Luis Arsuaga
of the Universidad Complutense in
Eudald Carbonellof the
Tarragona—suggest _H. antecessor_ may have evolved
from a population of _H. erectus_ living in Africa more than 1.5
million years ago and then migrated to Europe, further arguing that
_H. antecessor_ gave rise to _H. heidelbergensis_, which then gave
rise to Neanderthals, without contradicting the previous phylogenetic
A 2013 DNA analysis from a 400,000-year-old femur from Spain's Sima
de los Huesos in the
Atapuerca Mountains– the oldest hominin
sequence yet published – did not help to overcome contradictions.
Results "left researchers baffled" as the sequence "suggests link to
mystery population" of the Denisovans instead of the Neanderthals as
According to the _Science X Network_ the excavation team at the cave
site of Gran Dolina has succeeded to provide conclusive dating of the
strata where the _
Homoantecessor_ fossils were found. A 2014
publication in the _
Journal of Archaeological Science_ states that
the sediment of Gran Dolina is 900,000 years old.
A review of the _Spanish National Research Centre for Human
Evolution_ (CENIEH) in 2015, titled "_
Homoantecessor_: The state of
the art eighteen years later" only yields vague statements on the
species' phylogenetic position: "... a speciation event could have
occurred in Africa/Western Eurasia, originating a new _Homo_ clade ",
and further: "_
Homoantecessor_ ... could be a side branch of this
clade placed at the westernmost region of the Eurasian continent".
_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 fossil scarcity, very little more is known about the
physiology of _H. antecessor_, yet it was likely to have been more
robust 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 techniques. Arsuaga also claims that
the frequency range of audition is similar to _H. sapiens _, which
makes him suspect that _H. antecessor_ used a symbolic language and
was able to reason. Arsuaga's team is currently pursuing a DNA map of
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 significant features demonstrated by
the species are a protruding occipital bun , 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
Turkana Boy, belonging to _H. ergaster_.
_ Model of a female
Homoantecessor_ of Atapuerca practicing
cannibalism (Ibeas Museum, Burgos, Spain)
The only known fossils of _H. antecessor_ were found at two sites in
the Sierra de Atapuerca region of northern
Spain(Gran Dolina and Sima
del Elefante). The type specimen for H. antecessor is ATD 6-5, dating
to approximately 780,000 years ago. Other sites yielding fossil
evidence of this hominid have been discovered in the United Kingdom
Eudald Carbonelli Roura of the Universidad Rovira i
Spainand palaeoanthropologist Juan Luis
Arsuaga Ferreras of the
Complutense University of Madrid
Complutense University of Madriddiscovered
Homoantecessor_ remains at the Gran Dolina (literally “Big
Sinkhole”) site in the Sierra de Atapuerca , east of
now is Spain. The _H. antecessor_ remains have been found in level 6
(TD6) of the Gran Dolina site.
More than 80 bone fragments from six individuals were uncovered in
1994 and 1995. The site also had included approximately 200 stone
tools and 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 900,000 years old. The best-preserved remains are
a maxilla (upper jawbone) and a frontal bone of an individual who died
at the age of 10–11.
SIMA DEL ELEFANTE
On June 29, 2007, Spanish researchers working at the Sima del
Elefante (“Pit of the Elephant”) site in the Atapuerca Mountains
Spainannounced that they had recovered a molar dated to 1.2–1.1
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 a mandible fragment, stone flakes,
and evidence of animal bone processing.
_ Model of a male
Homoantecessor_ of Atapuerca mountains (Ibeas
Museum, Burgos, Spain)
In 2005, flint tools and teeth from the same strata as fossils of the
water vole _Mimomys savini_, a key dating species, were found in the
Pakefieldnear Lowestoft in Suffolk. This suggests that
hominins existed in England 700,000 years ago, potentially a cross
Homoantecessor_ and _
In 2010, stone tool finds were reported in Happisburgh , Norfolk,
England, thought 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
In May 2013, sets of fossilized footprints were discovered in an
estuary at Happisburgh. They are thought to date from 800,000 years
ago and are theorized to have been left by a small group of people,
including several children and one adult male. The tracks are
considered the oldest human footprints outside Africa and the first
direct evidence of humans in this time period in the UK or northern
Europe, previously known only by their stone tools. Within two weeks,
the tracks had been covered again by sand, but scientists made 3D
photogrammetric images of the prints, and attributed them to _H.
Twenty tools dating back to the Paleolithic (pebble culture, 1.6
million years ago) were found in 2008.
Dawn of Humanity
Out of Africa I
BBC– _Dawn of Man_ (2000) by Robin McKie ISBN 0-7894-6262-1
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