2023 Author: Bryan Walter | [email protected]. Last modified: 2023-05-21 22:24
How many times have I cried, how rarely do anthropologists get beautiful skulls. And now my grief is comforted! A holiday in the cave of Portuguese archaeologists and anthropologists: the skull of Aroeira 3 was found.
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Skull Aroeira 3
The Aroeira Cave has been excavated for many years. Until now, however, she was usually referred to as Galeria Pesada. They also found paleoanthropological treasures here: a canine tooth and a molar. But two teeth are not too cool. Whether it is the cranium, even if its right half, even without the occiput, even without a base, even with a hole in the temple. But with a piece of the upper jaw. The main dish is decorated with a wonderful side dish of Acheulean chops and fauna obtained by ancient hunters, dominated by fallow deer, deer and horses, but also turtles, rhinos, bulls and bears. Some of the bones are burnt, which, as it were, hints at the intelligence and advancement of the ancient Portuguese. By the way, the dating of deposits with all these riches is about 400 thousand years, more precisely - from 390 to 436 thousand.
What is the skull itself? He is beautiful! A powerful brow, a sloping forehead, a flattened crown (due to the absence of the occiput, it looks more rounded than it was originally) - all the classic features of Homo heidelbergensis are present, even if the face is not preserved. At the same time, the combination of more specific and specific features in Aroeira 3 is unique. The fused, powerful and very thick brow is more similar to archanthropus, and from the European Middle Pleistocene people - from Bilzingsleben 1, the angular ridge of the parietal bone - with archanthropus and Sima de los Huesos 4, a slightly deepened nasal bridge and a large triangular posterior articular process - with Sima de Uesos, a small mastoid process - with Steinheim. The course of the transverse venous sinus distinguishes Aroeira 3 from the Archantropians and Sima de los Huesos, the almost vertical lateral walls of the skull - from the Archantropians and Neanderthals, the protruding pre-articular elevation of the temporal bone - from people from Sima de los Huesos and Neanderthals, the subtleties of the structure of the nasal cavity and - from Steinheim Neanderthals.
Like most ancient people, Aroeira 3 has a huge interorbital distance, practically coinciding with that of Bilzingsleben 1. The presence of the styloid process gives hope that the most ancient Portuguese could speak. The article does not emphasize, but from the measurements, another feature of Aroeira 3 follows - a relatively very wide and rather long forehead. The posterior orbital narrowing is very weak, although this impression can be enhanced by postmortem deformity and fracture of the zygomatic processes of the frontal bone. It is noticeable that the frontal lobe was also very high. And here comes the time for interpretations.
There are many opinions regarding the fate of the Middle Pleistocene hominids of Europe. According to the simplest version, from the archantropus-erectus who came from Africa during the Middle Pleistocene, the species "Heidelberg man" turned out, which gradually turned into Neanderthals.
Acheulean tools from the Aroeira cave
There is another version that would have pleased Roni Sr. more: at the same time - about 400-300 thousand years ago - two or three lines of people lived in Europe. One of them was very archaic, little different from erectus - for example, Arago, Petralona and Ceprano. The second combined the features of erectus in the cerebral box with signs of Neanderthals in the face - these are Sima de los Huesos, Swanscombe and Steinheim. Still others do not differ much from the Neanderthals - Erigsdorf, Sakkopastore, Biash St. Vaast. However, those are noticeably younger geologically - about 200 thousand years ago - and therefore may well be the descendants of the second group. Of these groups, in terms of the totality of features, Aroeira 3 is nevertheless closer to the second, that is, to the ancestors of Neanderthals such as Sima de los Huesos.
It is significant that at the same time, that is, about 400-300 thousand years ago, the use of fire and the Acheulean technique spread throughout Europe, victoriously replacing the pebble industry. These innovations came from Africa, where they had existed before that for a million years (they immediately straighten their shoulders - our ancestors!). At the same time, in the synchronous and not so distant cave of Arago there is an acheule, but 400 thousand years ago there is no fire (by the way, in the Israeli cave Tabun, the situation is exactly the same: both here and in France, central heating and roasts appeared on the menu for the first time about 350 thousand years ago, that is, only 50 thousand years after Aroyera); in Bilzingsleben there is fire, but there is no Achel - such morphologically close Bilzingsleben 1 used pebble tools at all. And in Aroeira there is both fire and acheule, despite the fact that this is the westernmost point of Europe. That is, the spread of progress went by leaps and bounds, and the Aroeir people turn out to be the most advanced of all. They probably had such large frontal lobes for a reason!
It's worth noting that the article describing the new skull is just perfect. After reading it, you can even somehow get confused: out of habit, you want to sneer, find fault with something, but there is nothing! The description is exhaustive, the comparisons are correct, the conclusions are moderately cautious, the assumptions are quite large-scale.
We can only wish the Portuguese archaeologists and anthropologists to dig deeper and delight the world with new discoveries!
Daura J., Sanz M., Arsuaga JL, Hoffmann DL, Quam RM, Ortega MC, Santos E., Gómez S., Rubio A., Villaescusa L., Souto P., Mauricio J., Rodrigues F., Ferreira A., Godinho P., Trinkaus E. et Zilhão J. New Middle Pleistocene hominin cranium from Grutada Aroeira (Portugal) // PNAS, 2017, pp. 1-6