Re: Dating first european modern homo sapiens

Alex Duncan (
10 Nov 1995 12:48:43 GMT

In article <47tuog$> pete, VINCENT@REG.TRIUMF.CA

>I was sort of hoping that
>someone here might know more about this announcement, and fill
>in the details.

Rink WJ, Schwarcz HP, Smith FH & Radovcic J (1995) ESR ages for Krapina
hominids. Nature, 378:24.

My summary: Krapina is a well known Neandertal site, where numerous
specimens and several "burials" have been reported. Rink et al. used
electron spin resonance dating to provide an age of 130 +/- 10 kyr for
the site.

Krapina has often been cited as an important locality by those who think
Neandertals contributed something to the modern human gene pool. Wolpoff
lists numerous morphological features for Krapina hominids that he thinks
are intermediate between Neandertals and modern humans. It's been so
long since I've read his stuff that I don't recall specifically what
features he cites.

In the new article, the authors note a 6 - 8 yr old juvenile specimen
from layer 8 whose cranium is pentagonally shaped in rear view, has a
higher frontal squama, and "other features" that approach the condition
seen in modern H. sapiens.

Additionally, they also note a partial occipital from layer 8 that lacks
a suprainiac fossa.

My critique: [shouldn't be taken too seriously, as I haven't seen
pictures or casts of the specimens in question]

1) A "pentagonally shaped" cranium in rear view is characteristic of H.
erectus and non-Neandertal "archaic" H. sapiens. Modern H. sapiens lacks
the angulation of the cranium that tends to make it appear pentagonal.

2) Because the specimen is a juvenile, some features may not be
diagnostic. For example, the crania of juvenile chimps look much more
human-like than those of adult chimps. A more vertical frontal squama
may simply be a juvenile feature, rather than an indication of affinities
with modern Homo.

3) Absence of a suprainiac fossa: potentially a good trait, except that
it is not an apomorphy of modern H. sapiens. The suprainiac fossa is
also generally absent in "archaic" H. sapiens and in H. erectus. My
understanding is that the suprainiac fossa is almost universally present
in Neandertals. Its absence might be a good reason for saying the
specimen is not a Neandertal, but not necessarily a good reason for
saying the specimen IS a modern human.

Alex Duncan
Dept. of Anthropology
University of Texas at Austin
Austin, TX 78712-1086