The following three iconic hominins were found on October 21st!
The Mauer mandible – Oct 21st, 1907
It was found in the sediments by the Neckar river near Mauer, Germany, and dated to 500-600 Ka. The fossil was so different from other Homo specimens that a new species was defined for it: Homo heidelbergensis. This mandible remained the oldest hominin known in Europe for almost a century, until the 1990s.
It combines primitive features (large size, robust wide mandibular body, thick enamel, broad ramus) and modern features (molars are smaller than Homo erectus but some similar to modern humans). It is relatively short, the symphysis slopes down and back from the teeth and lacks a projecting chin.
Mauer mandible. Image credit: Schoetensack O. Der Unterkeifer des Homo heidelbergensis aus den Sanden von Mauer bei Heidelberg (1908)
The Atapuerca system in northern Spain is a unique place for human evolution. In particular, the cave ‘Sima de los Huesos’ is among the sites with the largest number of hominin fossils. For 30 years, more than 7,000 fossils from 29 individuals have been recovered, representing all parts of the skeleton. They are dated to 430,000 years, which makes them the oldest fossils with neandertal features. All the individuals belong to the same biological population, which is terribly valuable to analyse their variations, sexual differences and patterns of development.
In 2014 the analysis of the 17 skulls from Sima was published. 7 skulls of the collection had not been published before. This study came 21 years after the description of the first 3 skulls.
The 17 skulls of Sima de los Huesos. Credit: Javier Trueba, Madrid Scientific Films