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 and 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
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 Homo
heidelbergensis) because H. antecessor has a combination of primitive
traits typical of earlier
Homo and unique features seen in neither
Homo sapiens. Author Richard Klein argues that it was
a separate species that evolved from H. ergaster.
Some scientists consider H. antecessor to be the same species as H.
heidelbergensis, who inhabited
Europe from 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
Human timeline 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 in
← Earliest cooking ← Earliest clothes ← Modern speech
← 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 Carbonell of 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
Homo antecessor 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
(CENIEH) in 2015, titled "
Homo antecessor: 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:
Homo antecessor ... 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 to 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 H.
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
Turkana Boy , belonging to H. ergaster.
Model of a female
Homo antecessor 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 Carbonell i Roura of the Universidad Rovira i
Spain and palaeoanthropologist Juan Luis
Arsuaga Ferreras of the
Complutense University of Madrid discovered
Homo antecessor remains at the Gran Dolina (literally “Big
Sinkhole”) site in the Sierra de Atapuerca , east of
Burgos in what
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
Spain announced that they had recovered a molar dated to 1.2 to 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. These remains are the oldest
hominid remains in
Homo erectus georgicus from
Georgia (dated 1.8 million years ago) and an infant tooth from
Spain which has not received species assignation (1.4 million years).
Model of a male
Homo antecessor 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
Pakefield near Lowestoft in Suffolk. This suggests that
hominins existed in England 700,000 years ago, potentially a cross
Homo antecessor and
Homo heidelbergensis .
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 Northern
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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Homo antecessor in northern Europe