Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Homo Antecessor

Homo antecessor is an extinct species of Homo that dates from 1.2 million to 800,000 years ago. A piece of fossil remains was discovered by Eudald Carbonell, J. L. Arsuaga and J. M. Bermúdez de Castro. It was a maxilla that belonged to a 10-year-old individual found in Spain. Homo antecessor is one of the earliest known human varieties in Europe. Various archaeologists and anthropologists have debated how H. antecessor related to other Homo species in Europe, with suggestions that it was an evolutionary link between H. ergaster and H. heidelbergensis, although Richard Klein believes that it was instead a separate species that evolved from H. ergaster. Others believe that H. antecessor is in fact the same species as H. heidelbergensis, who inhabited Europe from 600,000 to 250,000 years ago in the Pleistocene.

The average brain size of Homo antecessor was 1000 cm³ in volume. In 1994 and 1995, 80 fossils of six individuals that may have belonged to the species were found in Atapuerca, Spain. The fossils bore marks where the flesh had been torn off the bones, which indicates that H. antecessor could have practiced cannibalism. H. antecessor was about 1.6-1.8 m (5½-6 feet) tall, and males weighed roughly 90 kg (200 pounds). Their brain sizes ranged from 1000 to 1150 cm³ (61in³-70.2in³), smaller than the 1350 cm³ (82.4in³) average of modern humans. Due to its 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 to the other apes. This hypothesis is based on tomography techniques. Arsuaga also claims that the frequency range of audition is similar to Homo sapiens, which makes him believe that H. antecessor used a symbolic language and was able to reason. Arsuaga's team is currently pursuing a DNA map of H. antecessor after elucidating that of a bear that lived in northern Spain some 500,000 years ago.