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A Middle Pleistocene Homo from Nesher Ramla, Israel

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Science  25 Jun 2021:
Vol. 372, Issue 6549, pp. 1424-1428
DOI: 10.1126/science.abh3169

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Middle Pleistocene Homo in the Levant

Our understanding of the origin, distribution, and evolution of early humans and their close relatives has been greatly refined by recent new information. Adding to this trend, Hershkovitz et al. have uncovered evidence of a previously unknown archaic Homo population, the “Nesher Ramla Homo” (see the Perspective by Mirazon Lahr). The authors present comprehensive qualitative and quantitative analyses of fossilized remains from a site in Israel dated to 140,000 to 120,000 years ago indicating the presence of a previously unrecognized group of hominins representing the last surviving populations of Middle Pleistocene Homo in Europe, southwest Asia, and Africa. In a companion paper, Zaidner et al. present the radiometric ages, stone tool assemblages, faunal assemblages, and other behavioral and environmental data associated with these fossils. This evidence shows that these hominins had fully mastered technology that until only recently was linked to either Homo sapiens or Neanderthals. Nesher Ramla Homo was an efficient hunter of large and small game, used wood for fuel, cooked or roasted meat, and maintained fires. These findings provide archaeological support for cultural interactions between different human lineages during the Middle Paleolithic, suggesting that admixture between Middle Pleistocene Homo and H. sapiens had already occurred by this time.

Science, abh3169 and abh3020, this issue p. 1424 and p. 1429; see also abj3077, p. 1395

Abstract

It has long been believed that Neanderthals originated and flourished on the European continent. However, recent morphological and genetic studies have suggested that they may have received a genetic contribution from a yet unknown non-European group. Here we report on the recent discovery of archaic Homo fossils from the site of Nesher Ramla, Israel, which we dated to 140,000 to 120,000 years ago. Comprehensive qualitative and quantitative analyses of the parietal bones, mandible, and lower second molar revealed that this Homo group presents a distinctive combination of Neanderthal and archaic features. We suggest that these specimens represent the late survivors of a Levantine Middle Pleistocene paleodeme that was most likely involved in the evolution of the Middle Pleistocene Homo in Europe and East Asia.

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