Biology

CHAPTER 10

Premodern Humans

The Pleistocene

• The Pleistocene, often called the Ice Age, was marked by

advances and retreats of massive continental

glaciations.

• At least 15 major and 50 minor glacial advances have been

documented in Europe.

• All life on the planet was impacted by changing weather patterns

• Hominins were impacted as the climate, flora, and animal life

shifted.

Pleistocene Stages

• Middle Pleistocene • The portion of the Pleistocene epoch beginning 780,000 ya and

ending 125,000 ya.

• Late Pleistocene • The portion of the Pleistocene epoch beginning 125,000 ya and

ending approximately 10,000 ya.

Glaciations

• Climatic intervals when continental ice sheets cover much

of the northern continents.

• Glaciations equate to colder temperatures in northern

latitudes and more arid conditions in southern latitudes,

most notably in Africa.

Interglacials

• Climatic intervals when continental ice sheets are

retreating, eventually becoming much reduced in size.

• Interglacials in northern latitudes are associated with

warmer temperatures, while in southern latitudes the

climate becomes wetter.

Changing Pleistocene Environments in Africa

Changing Pleistocene Environments in Eurasia

• Changing migration routes.

Homo heidelbergensis • Widely distributed, Middle Pleistocene, premodern human

• Found in Africa, Asia and Europe (first time Europe is permanently occupied)

• Replacing earlier hominins in their previous habitats (or coexisting as in Southeast Asia)

• Most likely the evolutionary ancestor to Homo sapiens and Neandertals

• Exhibit several H. erectus characteristics: • Large face, projected brows, low forehead, and thick cranial vault

• New Features: • Increased brain size, rounded braincase, vertical nose, and reduced occipital

African Homo heidelbergensis finds

• The Kabwe (Broken Hill)

skull from Zambia. • Clear mix of primitive and

derived traits

• Note the robust browridges.

• Bodo Cranium • The earliest evidence of Homo

heidelbergensis in Africa.

• Possibly defleshed with stone

tools.

Europe

• Gran Dolina finds in northern Spain may represent the ealiest H.

heidelbergensis, possibly dating to 850,000 ya

• Atapuerca site of Sima de los Huesos remains of at least 28

individuals date to 600,000-530,000 ya

• This is 80% of all Middle Pleistocene hominin remains found in the world,

crucial site for further study

• May be the earliest site of intentional disposal of the dead

Asia • Dali fossils display H. erectus and H. sapiens traits, cranial

capacity of 1120 cm3

• Jinniushan, northeast China, 200,000 ya individual with modern

features and cranial capacity appx 1260 cm3

• Many Chinese researchers have argued evidence suggests

separate evolutionary linage of Chinese specimens to modern

humans

• Debate remains if these specimins should be classified as H.

heidelbergensis or H. sapien

Middle Pleistocene Culture

• The Acheulian technology of H. erectus carried into

the Middle Pleistocene with little change until near

the end of the period, when it became slightly more

sophisticated.

• Some later premodern humans in Africa and Europe

invented the Levallois for controlling flake size and

shape.

• This suggests increased cognitive abilities in later

premodern populations.

The Levallois Technique

Middle Pleistocene Culture

• Premodern human populations built temporary shelters

evidenced by concentrations of bones, stones, and artifacts

• May have increased their use of caves as seen by large

deposits of bone and cultural remains in many areas.

• Chinese archaeologists insist that many Middle Pleistocene

sites in China contain evidence of human-controlled fire. Some

evidence from France, Germany and Hungary may also

support this.

Middle Pleistocene Culture • Evidence shows different food sources were exploited, fruits, vegetables, fish, seeds, nuts, and bird eggs, seasonally.

• Also marine life, new innovation in human evolution.

• There has been little evidence supporting widely practiced

advanced hunting at this time.

• However, in 1995 wood spears were found at the

Schöningen site in Germany provisionally dated to 400,000

to 300,000 ya • These were most likely used as throwing spears to hunt large animals.

• The bones of numerous horses were also recovered at Schöningen.

Neandertals of the Late Pleistocene

• Neandertals are premodern humans that are increasingly placed by researchers into the classification of a subspeices of H. Sapien, • Homo sapiens neanderthalensis with modern humans split of as

H. sapiens sapiens

• Many disagree with seperating them form the H. sapien species due to new genetic findings

Homo neanderthalensis

• Brain Size: Larger than H. sapiens today (1520 cm3 compared

to 1300-1400 cm3 (perhaps adapted to cold climate).

• Cranium: Large, long, low, and bulging at the sides, occipital

bun, with large brow ridge.

Homo neanderthalensis

• Structure: Robust, barrel-chested, and powerfully muscled with

shorter limbs than modern H. sapiens.

Important Neanderthal Finds

• La Chapelle-aux-Saints Skull • Outlier individual, especially robust

• Interpritation led to early views of

Neanderthal

• Krapina Cranium

• Possibly oldest fully Neanderthal

specimins

• Oldest burial on record

• St. Césaire

• St. Césaire, among the “last” Neandertals

Shanidar Cave

• In Shanidar cave, in the Zagros Mountains of northeastern Iraq, fieldworkers found partial skeletons of nine individuals, four of them deliberately buried.

• Shanidar 1 is a skeleton of a male who lived to be 30 to 45 years old, a very old age for prehistoric human.

• His height is estimated at 5 feet 7 inches, and his cranial capacity is 1,600 cm3.

• He had injuries that made it impossible to perform normal activities leading researches to believe he must have been helped by others.

Shanidar 1

• Could he represent

Neandertal

compassion for the

disabled?

Culture of Neandertals

• Neandertals improved previous techniques by inventing a new variation, Mousterian.

• They trimmed a flint nodule around the edges to form a disk-shaped core.

• Each time they struck the edge, they produced a flake, continuing until the core became too small and was discarded.

• They then trimmed the flakes into various forms, such as scrapers, points, and knives.

Subsistence

• Remains of animal bones demonstrate that

Neandertals were successful hunters.

• Used close-proximity spears for hunting (spear

thrower and bow and arrow weren’t invented until the

Upper Paleolithic).

• Patterns of trauma in Neandertal remains match

those of contemporary rodeo performers, indicating

close proximity to prey.

Speech and Symbolic Behavior

• Prevailing consensus has been that Neandertals were

capable of articulate speech.

• Same hyoid bone and FOXP2 gene

• Even if Neandertals did speak, they did not have the

same language capabilities of modern Homo sapiens.

Burials

• Neanderthals buried their dead.

• Their burials included grave goods like animal bones and

stone tools.

• They placed the bodies of their dead in a flexed position.

Upper Paleolithic

• A cultural period usually associated with modern humans,

but also found with some Neandertals, and distinguished

by technological innovation in various stone tool

industries.

• Best known from western Europe, similar industries are

also known from central and eastern Europe and Africa.

Chatelperronian

• Pertaining to an Upper Paleolithic industry found in France and

Spain, containing blade tools and associated with Neandertals.

• Suggestive of some cultural hybridization

The 3rd Upper Paleolithic Hominin

• Denisova Cave, southern Siberia

• Finger bone and tooth dated to 50,000-30,000 ya

• Mitochondrial DNA shows significant genetic distance

from both Homo sapiens and Neandertals

• This means a third Hominin existed contemporaneously

with Neandertals and modern humans!

Molecular Connections: The Genetic Evidence

• Tremendous advances in past 15 years in sequencing

Neandertal mitochondrial and nuclear DNA

• Modern human populations outside of Africa possess1-

4% of distinctive Neandertal DNA

• Melanesian populations contain 4-5% of distinctive

Denisovan DNA

• Suggests interbreeding of premodern and modern

populations

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