The Neandertals from El Sidron (Asturias, Spain). Updating of a new sample

Antonio Rosas, Almudena Estalrrich, Antonio Garcia-Tabernero, Markus Bastir, Samuel Garcia-Vargas, Andrea Sanchez-Meseguer, Rosa Huguet, Carles Lalueza-Fox, Angel Pena-Melian, Elena F. Kranioti, David Santamaria, Marco de la Rasilla, Javier Fortea

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

This paper synthesizes and updates the information coming from the El Sidron (Asturias, Northern Spain) neandertal site. Since 2000, a new sample of Homo neanderthalensis dated to at least 49,000 years old is being systematically recovered at the El Sidron cave site. The bone assemblage is located in a secondary position, and certainly derives from a close location. The sample is almost exclusively composed of human remains. There is a moderate number of Middle Paleolithic stone tools (n approximate to 415) and very few macro-faunal remains. All skeletal parts are preserved, including some rare bones such as the hyoid bone. Teeth are abundant (n = 213), cranial and postcranial remains are also well represented, but fragmentary, with a special presence of foot and hand bones. A minimum number of thirteen individuals has been identified, comprising different developmental stages from infancy to adulthood: one infant, two juveniles, three adolescents, and seven adults. Paleobiology of the El Sidron humans fits the pattern found in other neandertal samples: a high incidence of dental hypoplasia and interproximal grooves, yet no serious traumatic lesions are present. Moreover, unambiguous evidence of human-induced modifications (cannibalism) was found on the human remains: cut marks, percussion pitting, conchoidal scars and adhering flakes. Individuals seem to have been treated differentially. Morphologically, the El Sidron humans show a large number of neandertal lineage-derived features even though certain traits place the sample at the limits of neandertal variation. Integrating the El Sidron human mandibles and occipital bones into the larger neandertal sample reveals a possible geographic patterning, with southern Neandertals showing broader faces with increased lower facial heights. Ancient DNA analyses have been carried out, developing an anti-contamination protocol of excavation for minimizing the risk of modern human DNA contamination. As a result both mitochondrial and nuclear DNA have been extracted from dental and osteological remains. Curiously, mtDNA comparative analyses suggest a population affinity of Iberian Peninsula Neandertals with Central European Neandertals. Nuclear DNA analyses have permitted the identification of some functional genes such as the melanocortin I receptor (MCIR), which regulates hair and skin pigmentation; the FOXP2, a gene involved in the development of language; and the gene involved in the ABO blood group system. Nowadays the large El Sidron sample is the most significant neandertal sample from the Iberian Peninsula, and augments the European evolutionary lineage fossil record, supporting ecogeographical variability across neandertal populations. (c) 2012 Elsevier Masson SAS. All rights reserved.

Translated title of the contributionThe Neandertals from El Sidron (Asturias, Spain). Updating of a new sample
Original languageSpanish
Pages (from-to)57-76
Number of pages20
JournalAnthropologie
Volume116
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 31 Jan 2012

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