Photo: Eudald Carbonell (INAH)
Recent discoveries show that early humans were in Western Europe at least 1.4 million years ago and raise questions about the accepted view of how modern humans originated, a Spanish paleontologist said here.
Eudald Carbonell, co-director of the Sierra de Atapuerca project in northern Spain, shared those insights in a lecture at Mexico City’s National Museum of Anthropology.
The earliest evidence of human habitation in Western Europe is a child’s milk tooth unearthed at the Once site in southern Spain, Carbonell said.
Although the rudimentary tools found at the site are typical of the early Africa-based human species Homo habilis, researchers have yet to classify the child known as “Once boy.”
The Once boy presents resemblances to several different extinct human species, particularly to the 1.8-million-year-old Homo antecessor remains found in 1999-2001 in the Caucasus nation of Georgia, Carbonell said.
Homo antecessor remains dating from 1.2 million years ago were found by Carbonell’s team at Atapuerca.
The similarities between the Georgia and Atapuerca remains “set out the possibility that the first (human) inhabitants of Western Europe came from Asia, and not from Africa, as generally accepted,” Carbonell said.
Until now, it was thought that Homo antecessor was a precursor both of European Neanderthals and of modern Homo sapiens, which originated in Africa.
But the lack of Homo antecessor traces in Africa and the possible links between the Atapuerca and Georgia fossils suggest that Homo antecessor was an evolutionary dead end, Carbonell said.