Two sharp quartzite stones carved by a hominid 600,000 years in the past have simply supplied the lacking piece of the puzzle on the Atapuerca archeological web site in Burgos, in northern Spain. Whereas small in measurement, the discover offers proof of an uninterrupted human presence within the space from 1.four million years in the past to the current day.
|One of many 600,000-year-old instruments present in Spain’s Atapuerca web site
“Because of this discovery, Atapuerca is the one web site that may inform your complete historical past of human evolution in Europe with all of its human species,” says paleoanthropologist Maria Martinon-Torres, director of the Nationwide Analysis Middle on Human Evolution and a veteran on the Burgos web site. “These are exactly the items we wanted to finish the puzzle.”
Specialists had lengthy been stumped by the sudden lack of proof of hominids in Atapuerca spanning a whole lot of 1000’s of years. The primary human fossils discovered right here date again 1.2 million years and belong to an unidentified primitive hominid, though there are stone instruments that date again so far as 1.four million years.
Then, 850,000 years in the past, a very new species appeared: Homo antecessor, whose fossils and instruments have been unearthed together with the stays of his carnivorous meals, each animal and human. Subsequently, there’s a mysterious interim with no proof of a human presence till the pre-Neanderthals arrived about 400,000 years in the past. “What occurred?” says Martinon-Torres. “Did they abandon the cave; did its roof collapse? Had the people left or did we not know how you can discover them?”
|View of the excavations on the Atapuerca web site
Like H. antecessor’s artifacts, the 2 new instruments have been discovered on the Gran Dolina dig, in strata akin to between 500,000 and 600,000 years in the past. Used for reducing meat, these instruments construct a bridge linking the H. antecessor interval with that of the brand new hominids – the pre-Neanderthals whose stays have been present in one other a part of the positioning generally known as the Sima de los Huesos (Pit of the Bones).
Later, round 110,000 years in the past, the Neanderthals have been already absolutely fashioned as a species at Atapuerca, as evidenced by the stays of a toe and instruments discovered within the Statues Gallery. There they remained till about 40,000 years in the past, when their complete species was worn out. Lastly, Homo sapiens confirmed up, occupying the world from the Neolithic interval, round 7,000 years in the past, till the current day.
“I don’t suppose there may be every other web site on this planet the place all of the human species to inhabit Europe have been discovered: pre-Homo antecessor, Homo antecessor, pre-Neanderthals, Neanderthals and Homo sapiens,” says Martinon-Torres.