HOMO HEILDERBERGENSIS (PRECURSOR TO NEANDERTHALS) SIMILAR IN HEIGHT TO THE CURRENT POPULATION OF THE MEDITERRANEAN
The reconstruction of 27 complete human limb bones found in Atapuerca (Burgos, Spain) has helped to determine the height of various species of the Pleistocene era. Homo heilderbergensis, like Neanderthals, were similar in height to the current population of the Mediterranean. Along with its enormous quantity of fossils, one of the most important features of the Sima de los Huesos (SH) site in Atapuerca, Burgos, is the splendid state of the findings. They are so well conserved that the 27
complete bones from some 500,000 years ago have been reconstructed.
"The incredible collection allows us to estimate the height of species such as Homo heidelbergensis, who inhabited Europe during the Middle Pleistocene era and is the ancestor of the Neanderthal. Such estimations are based solely on analysis of the large complete bones, like those from the arm and the leg," as explained to SINC by José Miguel Carretero Díaz, researcher at the Laboratory of Human Evolution of the University of Burgos and lead author of the study that has been published in the 'Journal of Human Evolution' journal.
In addition, since bones were complete, the researchers were able to determine whether they belonged to a male or female and thus calculate the height of both men and women. The results suggest that both men and women in the Sima de los Huesos
population were on average slightly higher than Neanderthal men and women. "Neither can be described as being short and both are placed in the medium and above-medium height categories. But, both species featured tall individuals," assured the experts.
The height of these two species is similar to that of modern day population of mid-latitudes, like in the case of Central Europe and the Mediterranean. Height remained the same for some 2 million years until the appearance of a "ground-breaking species in this sense" in Africa just 200,000 years ago. These were the Homo sapiens, who were initially significantly taller than any other species that existed at the time. "The explanation is found in the overall morphological change in the body biotype that prevailed in our species compared to our ancestors. The Homo
sapiens had a slimmer body, lighter bones, longer legs and were taller,"
adds the researcher. A lighter body aided survival
This type of anatomy could have been highly advantageous in terms of survival in Eurasia during the Upper Pleistocene Era when two intelligent human species (the light-bodied Cro-Magnons and Neanderthals) had to face difficult climatic conditions, drastic changes in ecosystems and ecological competition.