Middle Pleistocene sub-Saharan African hominin fossils

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Middle Pleistocene sub-Saharan African hominin fossils.

Adapted from: Mirazon Lahr M (2013) Genetic and fossil evidence for modern human origins. In: P Mitchell & P Lane (Eds) Oxford Handbook of African Archaeology, pp. 323-338, OUP.




Elandsfontein, South Africa

> 600 Kyr

(fauna, lithics)

A cranial vault and mandibular fragment. The cranium has several traits typically seen in H. erectus, such as a supraorbital sulcus and moderately angled occipital. It shows an increased cranial capacity at 1225 cc (Archer & Braun 2010; Klein et al. 2007; Rightmire 1988; Singer 1954).

Bodo d’Ar, Middle Awash, Ethiopia

630 Kyr


A large partial cranium, with estimated 1250cc cranial capacity, a broken parietal and humerus. The cranium has a very broad, robust face, with an extremely broad nose (the largest of any Pleistocene hominin) with no marked lower nasal margins. It has an expanded maxilla, and an associated lack of a canine fossa, with the robust zygomatic arches angling backwards. It has a thick, continuous supraorbital torus and pronounced flexion of the cranial base (Asfaw 1983; Clark et al. 1994; Conroy et al. 2000; Rightmire 1996; White 1986)

Broken Hill, Kabwe, Zambia

~ 600 ? Kyr


Complete cranium and other fragmentary remains (a cranial fragment, a R maxilla, a fragmentary humerus, 2 pelveses, 6 femoral fragments, a fragment of tibia); the associations among the fossils, and between them and the fauna and stone tools are uncertain. The cranium (1325 cc) combines archaic Homo features (e.g. forward setting of the face in relation to the anterior cranial fossa, reduced cranial basal flexion, very large supraorbital tori) with derived traits (e.g. vertical nasal margin, palatal anatomy and brain size) (Hrdlicka 1926; Rightmire 1988, 2009; Stringer 1986; Trinkaus 2009, 2012; Wells 1955).

Kapthurin GnJh-01 and GnJh-19, Kenya

543-509 Kyr


Several hominin fossils from at least two individuals (mandibles: KNM-BK67 and KNM-BK8518, R metatarsal: KNM-BK63, R ulna: KNM-BK65) (Deino & McBrearty 2002; Tryon & McBrearty 2002)

Ndutu, Tanzania

500-300 Kyr ?


A relatively small cranium (1100 cc), with anatomical details that differentiate it from H. erectus (e.g. size of the articular tubercle in the mandibular fossa, thickness of the tympanic place, small supraorbital tori, and absence of strong muscular markings (Clarke 1976, 1990; Leakey & Hay 1982; Rightmire 1983)

Berg Aukas, Otavi Mtns, Namibia

500-200 Kyr ?

The proximal half of a very robust hominin femur. It has a flatter neck in antero-posterior dimensions than is typical of Homo erectus, while its sub-trochanteric antero-posterior flattening differentiates it from modern femora; its most striking feature is the level of cortical thickness, which at mid-shaft is the greatest recorded (Grine et al. 1995; Trinkaus et al. 1999).

Lainyamok, Kenya

392-330 Kyr


Teeth and a fragment of femoral shaft (Potts et al. 1988; Shipman et al. 1983)

Wadi Dagadlé, Djibouti

~400-250 Kyr ?

(fauna, TL)

Partial maxilla (Bonis et al. 1984, 1988)

Garba III, Melka Kunturé, Ethiopia

400-250 Kyr ?

(fauna, lithics)

Cranial fragments associated with fauna and lithics (Chavaillon et al. 1987)

Eyasi, Tanzania

400-200 Kyr ?

(fauna, lithics)

Fragmentary remains of several hominins (Eyasi I: cranium, II: partial occipital bone, III: cranial fragments and teeth, IV: partial occipital bone) (Dominguez-Rodrigo et al. 2008; Mehlman 1987, Trinkaus 2004)

Cave of Hearths, South Africa

400-200 Kyr ?

(fauna, lithics)

Mandibular fragment with teeth (Latham & Herries 2004, Pearson & Grine 1997; Tobias 1971)

KNM-ES11693, Eliye Springs, Kenya

300-200 Kyr ?

Well-preserved cranium, but pathology makes interpretations difficult (Bräuer & Leakey 1986, Bräuer et al. 2003)

Hoedjiespunt, South Africa

300-200 Kyr ?

(TL, ISL, fauna)

Fragments of cranial and post-cranial bones, and teeth (Berger & Parkington 1995, Stynder et al. 2001)

KNM-ER3884 Guomde, Kenya

270 Kyr

(ϒ-ray spectrometry)

A partial cranium and femur; the occipital bone is comparatively derived, and like LH18, resembles a modern human anatomy (Bräuer et al. 1992, 1997).

Florisbad, Free State, South Africa

259 ± 35 Kyr


A fragmentary cranium with a partial face, which has had several reconstructions. The remains show some derived features, such as a relatively broad frontal bone and a possible canine fossa, but the latter may not be homologous with the human condition (Clarke 1985, Grün et al. 1996, Kuman et al. 1999; Maddux & Franciscus 2009, Rightmire 1978, 2009).

Kébibat, Rabat, Morocco

~200-130 Kyr

(U-s on shell)

Fragments of the cranium and mandible of a juvenile hominin, found in association with a mammalian fauna that suggests a late Middle Pleistocene age (Debénath 2000)

Ngaloba, Laetoli, Tanzania

200-120 Kyr ?

(U-s, fauna, lithics)

A relatively complete cranium, in which a combination of derived and archaic features are seen (e.g. thick supraorbital tori, which are nevertheless clearly separated into medial and lateral sections, overall cranial breadth, and a curved occipital) (Day et al. 1980; Magori & Day 1983; Rightmire 1988)

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