Thursday, 7 February 2013

Balanica BH-1: 397-525 thousand years old

The occurrence of derived Neandertal traits in Sima vs. their absence in penecontemporaneous samples from  southeastern Europe is fairly interesting. It might suggest that the Neandertal suite of traits first appeared in western Europe.

We tend to think of Old World H. heidelbergensis as a parental species which produced -at least in the western part of the Old World- two descendant species, sapiens and neanderthalensis, but clearly that is not the whole story. Unrelated to the current paper, but perhaps worthy of note is that these two descendant species make their appearance far apart in time, with Neandertaloid traits already in evidence very early in Europe, and modern human ones late in east Africa. We may wonder about what was taking place in the temporal gap between 600 and 200 thousand years ago, and the spatial gap between Europe and Africaa.

PLoS ONE 8(2): e54608. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0054608

New Radiometric Ages for the BH-1 Hominin from Balanica (Serbia): Implications for Understanding the Role of the Balkans in Middle Pleistocene Human Evolution

William J. Rink et al.

Newly obtained ages, based on electron spin resonance combined with uranium series isotopic analysis, and infrared/post-infrared luminescence dating, provide a minimum age that lies between 397 and 525 ka for the hominin mandible BH-1 from Mala Balanica cave, Serbia. This confirms it as the easternmost hominin specimen in Europe dated to the Middle Pleistocene. Inferences drawn from the morphology of the mandible BH-1 place it outside currently observed variation of European Homo heidelbergensis. The lack of derived Neandertal traits in BH-1 and its contemporary specimens in Southeast Europe, such as KocabaƟ, Vasogliano and Ceprano, coupled with Middle Pleistocene synapomorphies, suggests different evolutionary forces acting in the east of the continent where isolation did not play such an important role during glaciations.


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