Friday, June 29, 2007

Found a human tooth dated to ca. 1.2 My in the Sima del Elefante (TE9), Atapuerca

1.2-My-old hominid premolar discovered in the level 9 of the Sima del Elefante. Picture: Jordi Mestre/IPHES.

Last Wednesday, June 27, one P4 was found in the level 9 of the Sima del Elefante, Atapuerca.

“This find occurring within TE9 is very important as it directly proves that there was human presence in the Sierra de Atapuerca at least 1.2 millions of years ago” has been assured by Eudald Carbonell, director of the IPHES and co-director of the Atapuerca Project together with José María Bermúdez de Castro (CENIEH) and Juan Luis Arsuaga (UCM–ISCIII). He has added “In previous years we had found lithic industry which guaranteed this age, but we had never found human remains in the site”.

Along the same lines Rosa Huguet, who defended her doctoral thesis dealing with human occupations in Atapuerca and Orce just few weeks ago at the URV, points out “I already defended in my thesis a hominid presence in Atapuerca 1.2 millions of years ago, but I based it on cut marks observed on faunal remains, which would have been consumed by these hominids, as well as on the documented lithic industry. The fact that this premolar has now been found is a direct evidence which demonstrates the human presence of the Sima del Elefante at that period”.

Exactly, the tooth is a P4, a very well preserved lower premolar which would be ascribed to an adult. Regarding the species to which it could belong, Carbonell has pointed out “We still do not know, but in any case it would be a species previous to Homo antecessor and the direct evidence of hominids in Western Europe would be put back 400,000 years”.

Carbonell has also stated ‘To date it, we have for the moment biostratigraphical data coming from the level where the molar has appeared; the presence of Allophaiomys lavocati indicates us an age older than 1.2 millions of years. Equally, the first palaeomagnetic tests that we have carried out show us reversed polarity

Carbonell has remarked "We must carry out new palaeomagnetic analyses because we are thinking that the dates of this level could be even older than 1.2 millions of years. For the time being, however, the sites located in Atapuerca reinforce its importance as a key place for the study of human evolution, because at several sites (TE9, TD6, TG10, SH) and in a good stratigraphical context we have remains of different hominid species, which are respectively 1,200,000, 800,000 and 500,000 years old.

English version by Fernando Sánchez Trigueros

original version