400,000 year old fossil human cranium is oldest ever found in Portugal
A large international research team, directed by the Portuguese archaeologist João Zilhão and including Binghamton University anthropologist Rolf Quam, has found the oldest fossil human cranium in Portugal, marking an important contribution to knowledge of human evolution during the middle Pleistocene in Europe and to the origin of the Neandertals.
|The Aroeira 3 cranium [Credit: Javier Trueba]|
"This is an interesting new fossil discovery from the Iberian Peninsula, a crucial region for understanding the origin and evolution of the Neandertals," said Quam, an associate professor of anthropology at Binghamton University, State University of New York. "The Aroeira cranium is the oldest human fossil ever found in Portugal and shares some features with other fossils from this same time period in Spain, France and Italy. The Aroeria cranium increases the anatomical diversity in the human fossil record from this time period, suggesting different populations showed somewhat different combinations of features."
|A virtual reconstruction of the Aroeira 3 cranium [Credit: Rolf Quam]|
"The results of this study are only possible thanks to the arduous work of numerous individuals over the last several years," said Quam. "This includes the archaeologists who have excavated at the site for many years, the preparator who removed the fossil from its surrounding breccia, researchers who CT scanned the specimen and made virtual reconstructions and the anthropologists who studied the fossil. This study truly represents an international scientific collaboration, and I feel fortunate to be involved in this research."
|Acheulean handaxes from the Aroeira site [Credit: Rolf Quam]|
The new fossil will form the centerpiece of an exhibit on human evolution in October at the Museu Nacional de Arqueologia in Lisbon, Portugal.
The study is published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Source: Binghamton University [March 13, 2017]