An 800,000-year-old skeleton belonged to a woman, not a man, study shows


An 800,000-year-old skeleton of an ancestral species of modern humans belonged to a female and not a male as previously assumed, new research has shown.

The gender change for the skeleton, formerly known as the Gran Dolina Child, came after researchers used modern techniques to analyze dental tissues and discovered that it belonged to a girl between the ages of nine and 11.

The skeleton is an example of Homo antecessor, believed to be the final common ancestor shared by Homo sapiens and Neanderthals before the two species divided.

The remains were found at the Spanish archaeological site Grand Dolina in the 1960s, and it was later determined that they died after being killed and eaten by a rival tribe.

Scientists had no idea what the actual gender was until this study, with the concept that it was a boy coming from a children’s book about the excavation site written by José María Bermúdez de Castro in 2002 called El Chico De La Gran Dolina. .

“At this time it was not known to which sex this fossil belonged, so a male name was chosen, but it could have been female,” said study author Cecilla Garcia.

An 800,000-year-old skeleton of an ancestral species of modern humans belonged to a female and not a male as previously assumed, new research has shown. Artist impression

DETERMINING GENDER THROUGH DENTISTRY

The estimation of the sex of the ‘Niña de Gran Doline’ was carried out by the Dental Anthropology Group of the National Center for Research on Human Evolution (CENIEH).

It was achieved by studying the proportions of dental tissues in the canines of these ancient human fossils.

The dimensions of the enamel and dentin in these teeth are sexually dimorphic features.

In other words, they make it possible to distinguish male and female individuals in a population.

For this reason, these parameters have previously been used to estimate sex in forensic samples, where they reach a precision rate of up to 92.3%.

The new study, conducted by García and his colleagues from the Dental Anthropology Group of the National Center for Research on Human Evolution (CENIEH), is the first to estimate the sex of two of the most complete fossils found at the excavation site.

Using modern techniques, they examined the remains of individual H1, from which the species Homo antecessor was defined, and individual H3, previously assumed to be a girl due to the children’s book at the excavation site.

The results revealed that the canines of the two individuals show differences comparable to those observed between modern men and women.

“This has established that H1 was probably a male, while the H3 fossil was probably a female,” Carcia explained.

The human remains found in Gran Dolina have been analyzed by numerous researchers, although until now it had not been possible to assess gender differences.

This is because most of the individuals were immature, that is, they had not reached adolescence, which complicates the estimation of their sex.

Adding to this is the difficulty of having only small skeleton fragments available, rather than a full set of bones, they added.

“To date, we only knew the sex of a tooth fragment, from which the enamel proteins were obtained, added co-author José María Bermúdez de Castro.

The gender change for the skeleton, formerly known as El Niño de Gran Dolina, came after researchers used modern techniques to analyze dental tissues.

The gender change for the skeleton, formerly known as El Niño de Gran Dolina, came after researchers used modern techniques to analyze dental tissues.

“This study carried out by our Group now opens up a new and very reliable way of estimating sex through a non-destructive method.”

Sex estimation was achieved by studying the proportions of dental tissues in canines: the dimension of enamel and dentin.

This is because the dimensions of these are sexually dimorphic traits, which means that they are different between males and females of a species.

For this reason, this technique has been used in the past to estimate sex in forensic samples, with an accuracy of 92.3 percent, and in fossil samples.

Teeth offer the additional advantage that their formation is completed at an early stage and therefore allow the estimation of sex even in immature individuals.

The team said this was an especially useful point in the field of paleoanthropology.

For the first time they were able to verify that the remains of individual H3 from Gran Dolina belonged to a girl between 9 and 11 years old.

(photo, is an example of Homo antecessor, believed to be the final common ancestor shared by Homo sapiens and Neanderthals

The skeleton, found in Gran Dolina, in a cave (pictured), is an example of Homo antecessor, believed to be the final common ancestor shared by Homo sapiens and Neanderthals.

The remains were found at the Spanish archaeological site Grand Dolina in the 1960s, and it was later determined that they died after being killed and eaten by a rival tribe.

The remains were found at the Spanish archaeological site Grand Dolina in the 1960s, and it was later determined that they died after being killed and eaten by a rival tribe.

“This individual is represented by a partial face and a fragment of the frontal bone, although this typically appears in photographs together with a mandible found in 2003 that, curiously, is considered very likely to be female,” explains García.

The Gran Dolina Girl was probably similar in stature and body proportions to a modern girl her age, although she may have developed earlier.

Although not much is yet known about what her life might have been like more than 800,000 years ago, we do know something about how her story ended.

The remains found in Gran Dolina, including those of the girl, show clear evidence of cannibalism, probably the result of a confrontation between rival groups.

The findings have been published in the Journal of Anthropological Sciences.

WHO WERE THE HOMO ANTECESSORS?

A realistic model of a female Homo antecessor is posed by removing the brains from the decapitated head.

A realistic model of a female Homo antecessor is posed by removing the brains from the decapitated head.

Homo antecessor is one of the first known varieties of humans discovered in Europe, dating back a million years.

It is believed to have weighed around 14 kilograms, and Homo antecessor was said to be between 5.5 and 6 feet tall.

Their brain size ranged from roughly 1,000 to 1,150 cm³, which is smaller than the 1,350 cm³ midbrain of modern humans.

The species is believed to be right-handed, which makes it different from other apes, and may have used symbolic language, according to archaeologists who found remains in Burgos, Spain, in 1994.

How Homo antecessor may be related to other Homo species in Europe is a subject of intense debate.

Many anthropologists believe that there was an evolutionary link between Homo ergaster and Homo heidelbergensis.

Archaeologist Richard Klein claims that Homo antecessor was a completely separate species, which evolved from Homo ergaster.

However, others claim that Homo antecessor is actually the same species as Homo heidelbergensis, which lived in Europe between 600,000 and 250,000 years ago in the Pleistocene era.

In 2010, stone tools were found at the same site in Happisburgh, Norfolk, believed to have been used by Homo antecessor.

Scientists believe that these early human species would reproduce with each other on a regular basis.

Dr. Matthias Meyer, a palaeogeneticist at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, in Leipzig, Germany, said: “The evolutionary history of archaic humans in the middle Pleistocene was quite complex.

‘It could be that both the ancestors of the Sima people and the Denisovans interbred with another archaic group such as Homo antecessor or Homo erectus.

“Or it is possible that the mitochondrial DNA that we know of from the last Neanderthals came from another group that came out of Africa.”

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