Focus on the Sima de los Huesos

Probably in the next months we will have results about the nuclear DNA analysis of the hominid bones found in the Sima de los Huesos, dated to 430,000 years. I wanted to recap the background and importance of Sima, its findings, and what’s going on there at the present time.

Sima de los Huesos (‘Pit of Bones’) is one of the world’s most important sites of human fossils.  Located in Atapuerca, Spain, it is a sock-shaped pit with a 12 m deep vertical shaft, which turns into an inclined passage 10 meters in length, opening onto a 15 m2 chamber. So far, 7,000 hominid fossils have been found in this chamber… Sigue leyendo

Humor Evolution 2014

In Spain, Latin America and the Philippines, December 28th is a day for pranks, commemorating the biblical episode of The Massacre of the Innocents. This day is equivalent to the April Fool’s Day in the Anglo-Saxon countries.

To celebrate it, here is the top pranks around Human Evolution I have seen in this year 2014 😀

The Top 10 hominin #FossilFriday tweets of 2014

As we approach the end of the year, it’s time for summaries. This is my little contribution! From number 10 to 1, below is the list of my favorite #FossilFriday tweets in 2014.

For those who don’t know what “FossilFriday” means… Every Friday on twitter, scientists and interested amateurs share pics of their favorite fossils, related scientific papers or blog posts, by using the hashtag #FossilFriday. This is a great manner to show famous or rare pieces of museum collections, and to share research works. I usually join this and tweet about a different hominid fossil every Friday. Now, let’s start!  Sigue leyendo

Meet Ardi

ardipithecus-ramidusOn Dec 17th 1992 Gen Suwa discovered the first molar of a new hominid in Aramis, Ethiopia. Some more teeth and bone fragments were found between 1992-94 amounting to 45% of the total skeleton of a specimen nicknamed Ardi, alias of the species defined Ardipithecus ramidus. Curiously, the % of recovered skeleton is similar to what was found from Lucy (Australopithecus afarensis) only 74 km north of Ardi’s place.

Ardi is a female, 120 cm, 50 kg and dated to 4.4 mya. She is the most complete of the early hominids we have found so far, including some key bones: skull, teeth, pelvis, hands, arms, legs and feet. This has increased our knowledge on our earlier ancestors, especially with regards to their locomotion. “Ardi” means “ground floor” and “ramid” means “root” in the Afar language, suggesting that Ardi lived on the ground and was the root of the human family tree.

An area of just 9 km in the Middle Awash valley has produced bones from 35 specimens of Ar. ramidus and more than 6,000 fossils of a vast range of animals. The Middle Awash region is very well known for a few other sites with very important fossils found there, like Bodo (H. rhodesiensis), Herto (H. sapiens of 150 kya), Bouri-Hata (Au. garhi) and Daka (H. erectus).  Sigue leyendo

Meet the Rhodesian Man

Widely known as Broken Hill 1 (also Kabwe 1), the Rhodesian Man is an almost complete cranium discovered on June 17th, 1921 in a lead and zinc mine, 18 meters below the ground level, at Broken Hill, Northern Rhodesia (now Kabwe, Zambia). It was sent in the same year to London, where it remains one of the key treasures of the Natural History Museum.

Kabwe 1 replica, NHM London. Photo: Roberto Sáez

This is a challenging specimen for the understanding of our African direct ancestors. However, the circumstances around the discovery do not help to define a precise dating to this fossil. It was found by a miner and there were no scientists around, so the initial collection of data was not the desirable: for example, the exact position and the relation to animal remains in the area. The discoverer had no clear memories of the finding. He explained that the surroundings were basically soft material, and the only few bones present were some bat bones plus a human tibia discovered one meter away on the same day. This likely corresponds to the same individual of the cranium.  Sigue leyendo