BINGHAMTON, NY — For more than a century, one of the earliest human fossils ever discovered in Spain has long been believed to be a Neanderthal. However, a new analysis by an international research team, including scientists from Binghamton University, State University of New York, dismantles this century-old interpretation, demonstrating that this fossil is not a Neanderthal; rather, it may in fact represent the earliest presence of A wise man never documented in Europe.
In 1887, a fossil mandible was discovered during mining activities in the town of Banyoles, Spain, and has been studied by different researchers over the past century. The Banyoles fossil probably dates from around 45,000 to 65,000 years ago, when Europe was occupied by Neanderthals, and most researchers have generally linked it to this species.
“The mandible has been studied throughout the last century and has long been considered Neanderthal due to its age and location, and the fact that it lacks one of the diagnostic features of A wise man: a chin,” said Binghamton University graduate student Brian Keeling.
The new study relied on virtual techniques, including CT scans of the original fossil. This was used to virtually reconstruct the missing parts of the fossil and then generate a 3D model for computer analysis.
The authors studied the expressions of distinct features on the mandible of Banyoles that are different between our own species, A wise manand the Neanderthals, our closest evolutionary cousins.
The authors applied a methodology known as “three-dimensional geometric morphometry” which analyzes the geometric properties of bone shape. This makes it possible to directly compare the general shape of the Banyoles to that of the Neanderthals and H. wise.
“Our results found something quite surprising – Banyoles shared no distinct Neanderthal traits and did not overlap with Neanderthals in general form,” Keeling said.
While Banyoles seemed to fit better with A wise man both in the expression of its individual characteristics and in its general form, many of these characteristics are also shared with earlier human species, which complicates an immediate assignment to A wise man. Moreover, Banyoles does not have a chin, one of the most characteristic features of A wise man mandibles.
“We were faced with results that told us that Banyoles is not a Neanderthal, but the fact that he had no chin made us think twice before attributing it to A wise mansaid Rolf Quam, professor of anthropology at Binghamton University, State University of New York. “The presence of a chin has long been considered a characteristic of our own species.”
Given this, reaching a scientific consensus on what banyoles species represent is a challenge. The authors also compared Banyoles with an old A wise man mandible from a site called Peştera cu Oase in Romania. Unlike Banyoles, this mandible shows a full chin as well as some Neanderthal features, and ancient DNA analysis revealed that this individual had a Neanderthal ancestor four to six generations ago. Since the Banyoles mandible did not share any distinct features with Neanderthals, the researchers ruled out the possibility of admixture between Neanderthals and H. wise explain its anatomy.
The authors point out that some of the first A wise man fossils from Africa, predating Banyoles by more than 100,000 years, show less pronounced chins than in living populations.
Thus, these scientists developed two possibilities for what the Banyoles mandible may represent: a member of a previously unknown population of A wise man who coexisted with Neanderthals; or a hybrid between a member of this A wise man group and an unidentified non-Neanderthal human species. However, at the time of Banyoles, the only fossils recovered from Europe are Neanderthals, making the latter hypothesis less likely.
“If Banyoles is truly our species, this prehistoric human would represent the oldest H. wise never documented in Europe,” Keeling said.
Whatever species this mandible belongs to, Banyoles is clearly not a Neanderthal at a time when Neanderthals were believed to be the sole occupants of Europe.
The authors conclude that “the current situation makes Banyoles a prime candidate for ancient DNA or proteomic analyses, which may shed additional light on its taxonomic affinities.”
The authors plan to make the scanner and 3D model of Banyoles available to other researchers for free access and inclusion in future comparative studies, promoting open access to fossil specimens and reproducibility of studies. scientists.
The article, “Revaluation of the human mandible from Banyoles (Girona, Spain)”, was published in the Journal of Human Evolution.
Journal of Human Evolution
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Reassessment of the human mandible from Banyoles (Girona, Spain)
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