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Hominin sites in Europe and nearby regions





Hominids or Hominins?

The most commonly used recent definitions are:

Hominid – the group consisting of all modern and extinct Great Apes (that is, modern humans, chimpanzees, gorillas and orang-utans plus all their immediate ancestors).

Hominin – the group consisting of modern humans, extinct human species and all our immediate ancestors (including members of the genera Homo, Australopithecus, Paranthropus and Ardipithecus).

Definition above: https://australianmuseum.net.au/






europemap


Map of important Hominin sites in Europe and nearby regions.

Click on the map to obtain the high resolution version.

Base Map: https://ian.macky.net/pat/map/euro/euro.html
Permission:  pubdom This work has been released into the public domain
Additional text in red: Don Hitchcock






Important Hominin sites in Europe and nearby regions
Map Reference Comment Linked Image Text and Link
Arago Cave
aragolink2

Excavations since 1964 have revealed a number of human fossils at Arago including a skull and jaw from different individuals. Thousands of stone tools and the bones of many types of animals have also been uncovered at this site.

The Arago 21 skull is relatively complete but it was distorted either before or during fossilisation. Its features are typical of this species but its size and robust facial features suggest that it is the skull of a young male whose age at death was circa 20 years old. It has been dated as being between 250 000 BP and 400 000 BP.
Tautavel Tautavel Man (Homo erectus tautavelensis), is a proposed subspecies of the hominid Homo erectus, the 450 000 years old fossil remains of whom were discovered in the Arago Cave in Tautavel, France. Excavations began in 1964, with the first notable discovery occurring in 1969.

The skeletal remains of two individual hominids have been found in the cave: a female older than forty (Arago II, July 1969), and a male aged no more than twenty (Arago XXI, July 1971, and Arago XLVII, July 1979). Recovered stone tools originate from within a 5 kilometres radius of the cave, while animal bones suggest the inhabitants could travel up to 33 kilometres for food.

See: Homo erectus tautavelensis
heidelaragoblink Arago 21 and Arago, a skull and lower jaw of Homo heidelbergensis were discovered in Arago Caves, Tautavel, France. Excavations since 1964 have revealed a number of human fossils at Arago, as well as thousands of stone tools. The bones of many types of animals have also been uncovered at this site.

See: Homo heidelbergensis
Atapuerca
atapuercalink2

Fossils from the Gran Dolina railway cut in northern Spain's Sierra Atapuerca are from a hitherto unknown species of early human, Homo antecessor (from the Latin for pioneer or explorer), circa 780 000 BP, and claim that it is directly ancestral to both modern humans and Neanderthals.
antecessor The Gran Dolina fossils--nearly 80 postcranial, cranial, facial, and mandibular bones as well as teeth of at least six individuals - were excavated between 1994 and 1996.

A key specimen is a partial facial skeleton of a juvenile, estimated to be ten to eleven years old, recovered in 1995. The fossils exhibit both seemingly modern features, such as sunken cheekbones with a horizontal rather than vertical ridge where upper teeth attach and a projecting nose and midface, and more primitive ones, including prominent brow ridges and premolars with multiple roots.

( The Australian museum at https://australianmuseum.net.au notes that although many experts consider these remains to be part of an early and variable Homo heidelbergensis population, the discoverers believe the fossils are different enough to be given the new species name Homo antecessor - Don )

See: Homo antecessor
Fumane Cave
Fisherman_Lukanga_Swampsmlink2

A fossil marine shell, Aspa marginata, was discovered in a Mousterian layer of Fumane Cave, northern Italy, and was dated to 47 600 cal BP. Analysis shows that this fossil gastropod was collected by Neanderthals, at a Miocene or Pliocene fossil outcrop, the closest of which is located more than one hundred kilometres from the site.
fossilshelllink The shell was smeared with a pure, finely ground, hematite powder, probably mixed with a liquid. It was perhaps perforated and used as a personal ornament before being discarded, lost or intentionally left at Fumane Cave, some 47 600 - 45 000 cal BP. The minimum age of the Fumane unit in which the Aspa marginata was found predates the oldest available dates for the arrival of anatomically modern humans (AMH) in Europe, thus supporting the hypothesis that deliberate transport and colouring of exotic objects, and perhaps their use as pendants, was a component of Neanderthal cultures.

See: Neanderthal painted shell
Gorham's Cave
gorhamscavegibraltarlink2

When first inhabited by Homo neanderthalensis, Gorham's Cave would have been approximately five kilometres from the sea, but due to changes in sea level it is now only a few metres from the Mediterranean sea. Gorham's Cave was discovered by Captain A. Gorham of the 2nd Battalion Royal Munster Fusiliers in 1907, after whom the cave takes its name.

Forbes' Quarry, close by Gorham's Cave, was also inhabited by Neanderthals, and we have a skull from that site.
Gorham's Cave Excavation of this site has resulted in the discovery of four layers of stratigraphy. Level I has produced evidence for eighth to third centuries BC use by Phoenicians. Below that, level II produced evidence for brief Neolithic use. Level III has yielded at least 240 Upper Paleolithic artefacts of Magdalenian and Solutrean origin. Level IV has produced 103 items, including spear-points, knives, and scraping devices that are identified as Mousterian, and shows repeated use over thousands of years.

See: Homo neanderthalensis
DSC03331restorationforbesquarrylink Forbes' Quarry was the site of the 1848 discovery of the first Neanderthal skull by Lieutenant Edmund Flint of the Royal Artillery. The fossil, an adult female skull, is referred to as Gibraltar 1 or the Gibraltar Skull. Although it was discovered before the hominin from the Neander Valley, this was not recognised at the time, so the Neander Valley hominin became the type specimen.

See: Homo neanderthalensis
Grotta del Cavallo
Cavallo2link2

Grotta del Cavallo is so named because a stone on the top of the cave looks like the head of a horse.
Gorham's Cave The cave contains a rich stratigraphic succession with a depth of 7 m that is deposited on top of an interglacial beach foundation. The most notable section of this sequence covers the Middle Palaeolithic, associated with the Neanderthal Mousterian culture and recently discovered subsequent strata that were associated with the earliest known appearance of anatomically modern humans in Europe.

See: Homo neanderthalensis
Grotta dei Moscerini
caveexcavationlink2

This Homo neanderthalensis site was excavated in 1949 and is dated to 101 000 BP - 74 000 BP.
Gorham's Cave Grotta dei Moscerini is one of two Italian Neanderthal sites with a large assemblage of retouched shells (n = 171) from 21 layers. The other occurrence is from the broadly contemporaneous layer L of Grotta del Cavallo in southern Italy (n = 126). Eight other Mousterian sites in Italy and one in Greece also have shell tools but in a very small number. The shell tools are made on valves of the smooth clam Callista chione. At Moscerini 23.9% of the specimens were gathered directly from the sea floor as live animals by skin diving Neanderthals.

See: Homo neanderthalensis
Gruta da Aroeira
skulloriginal2link2

The oldest fossil human cranium in Portugal, of Homo heidelbergensis, was found at Gruta da Aroeira in 2013.
Gruta da Aroeira The cranium represents the westernmost human fossil ever found in Europe during the middle Pleistocene epoch and one of the earliest on this continent to be associated with the Acheulean stone tool industry. In contrast to other fossils from this same time period, many of which are poorly dated or lack a clear archaeological context, the cranium discovered in the cave of Aroeira in Portugal is well-dated to 400 000 years ago and appeared in association with abundant faunal remains and stone tools, including numerous bifaces (handaxes).

See: Homo heidelbergensis
La Quina
img_7207laquinalink2

La Quina is a Neanderthal site located in the Charente region of south-western France. The artisans of the La Quina Mousterian industry type (thick asymmetric tools transformed many times) had a particular way of life: they were hunters specialising in the hunt for reindeer or bison, and they moved following the herds. Their prey was generally transported, either wholly or in part, back to their base camps, caves or shelters. The area around La Quina is characterised by limestone cliffs cut by the Voultron River which still flows through the area today, as well as shallow rockshelters resulting from differential weathering of the limestone.
dsc04133quina_h5link

The skeleton found at La Quina is probably that of a woman. The skull is long, 203 mm; rather narrow in comparison with the length, 138 mm, giving a head index of 68. (138/203*100 = 68% - Don) The eyebrow ridges are as greatly and prominently developed as in male skulls, and such is not the case in skulls of modern women.

The jaws of the La Quina woman are strong and the teeth big. The bones of the vault of the skull are about 5 mm in thickness, whereas in the skulls of Neanderthal men in particular and Palaeolithic men in general, the vault has a thickness of 8 or 10 mm. The brain capacity of the skull is estimated by Professor Anthony at 1350 cc, about the same as for modern women, but 250 cc less than the capacity of the La Chapelle man's skull. The stature is calculated to have been 150 cm.

See: Homo neanderthalensis
Les Eyzies
eyziespanblink2

Les Eyzies in the Vézère Valley is the centre of a large range of very important sites, both of Neanderthals and of Homo sapiens. Nearby are many very important archaeological sites, situated there by the unique geology of the Les Eyzies area. Both times I have visited, I have spent two weeks exploring the area and visiting the caves and abris, as well as spending a lot of time in the excellent Museum there. If you only go to one area of France in the pursuit of a love of archaeology, this is the place to go.

First, here is a clickable map which will take you to the various sites, click on it to get to the interactive map, then click on the red dots to go to the various sites:

mapvezere



The names read like a rollcall of the world's most important artistic and evolutionary treasures:

La Grotte de Lascaux
La Grotte de Rouffignac
Le Moustier
La Grotte de Rouffignac
The Cro-Magnon Shelter
Le Moustier
Le Ruth and Le Cellier
Laugerie Haute
Laugerie Basse
Castel Merle
Roque St Christophe
L'Abri Poisson and La Gorge d'Enfer
L'Abri Pataud
Font de Gaume
Les Combarelles
La Grotte de la Mouthe
La Grotte de Bernifal
L'Abri du Cap Blanc
L'abri de Laussel
La Micoque
Le Regourdou


Apart from the links above, I have here on the right only linked to a few of the most important sites, with a brief description.

cromagnonlink1 Excavation of this site has resulted in the discovery of four layers of stratigraphy. Level I has produced evidence for eighth to third centuries BC use by Phoenicians. Below that, level II produced evidence for brief Neolithic use. Level III has yielded at least 240 Upper Paleolithic artefacts of Magdalenian and Solutrean origin. Level IV has produced 103 items, including spear-points, knives, and scraping devices that are identified as Mousterian, and shows repeated use over thousands of years.

See: Homo neanderthalensis
DSC03331restorationforbesquarrylink Forbes' Quarry was the site of the 1848 discovery of the first Neanderthal skull by Lieutenant Edmund Flint of the Royal Artillery. The fossil, an adult female skull, is referred to as Gibraltar 1 or the Gibraltar Skull. Although it was discovered before the hominin from the Neander Valley, this was not recognised at the time, so the Neander Valley hominin became the type specimen.

See: Homo neanderthalensis
Schleswig
dsc02612eelspearlink2

The earliest evidence of human life in Schleswig-Holstein occurs at Drelsdorf in the district of Nordfriesland, the stone tools of a group of Neanderthals, who camped here 120 000 years ago, were discovered.

In the subsequent ice age, the site was located in front of the ice sheet edge. The extremely cold climatic conditions have changed the surface of the artefacts in a characteristic way, giving them a patina they would not otherwise have.

Later, after the ice began retreating at around 15 500 BP, Homo sapiens hunters entered the area. The climate became increasingly warm. In front of the receding ice edge, tree-poor, but herbaceous and shrubby grassy steppes formed the habitat for large reindeer and horse herds. They meant life for the hunter groups of the Hamburg culture, followed by the Federmesser and Bromme cultures, who stalked moose. The younger Dryas was the last spell of cold weather of the ice age, and brought deforestation and a tundra landscape, and the Ahrensburg Culture returned to hunting reindeer and horse.

Tautavel For more than a million years, the hand axe was the most widely used universal device of man. The change in the form and technique of manufacture over the course of the millennia makes it possible to determine the age of these devices.

See: Homo neanderthalensis
dsc02693drillslink The Hamburg culture or Hamburgian was a Late Upper Paleolithic culture of reindeer hunters in northwestern Europe during the last part of the Weichsel Glaciation beginning during the Bölling interstadial. Sites are found close to the ice caps of the time.

The Hamburg Culture has been characterised by shouldered points and borers, which were also used as burins when working with antler. In later periods tanged Havelte-type points appear, sometimes described as most of all a northwestern phenomenon.

See: Homo sapiens



Origin of each of the photos above are acknowledged in the appropriate linked pages










References

  1. Berger et al., 2015: Homo naledi, a new species of the genus Homo from the Dinaledi Chamber, South Africa, eLife 2015;4:e09560, DOI: 10.7554/eLife.09560
  2. Currat M., Excoffier L., 2004: Modern Humans Did Not Admix with Neanderthals during Their Range Expansion into Europe, PLOS Biology, 2 (12): e421. doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.0020421. PMC 532389. PMID 15562317.
  3. Higham T., 2021: The world before us, Viking, Penguin Random House UK, 320 pp., ISBN 9780241440674.
  4. Lumley A., 2015: L’homme de Tautavel. Un Homo erectus européen évolué. Homo erectus tautavelensis, L'Anthropologie, Volume 119, Issue 3, June–August 2015, Pages 303-348
  5. van den Bergh G. et al., 2016: Homo floresiensis-like fossils from the early Middle Pleistocene of Flores, Nature, 534 (7606): 245–248. doi:10.1038/nature17999. PMID 27279221.



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