Oldest fossil human cranium ever found in Portugal

The oldest fossil human cranium in the cave of Aroeira, Portugal was found, representing also the westernmost human fossil ever found in Europe from the middle Pleistocene epoch, being about 400000 years old.

The 400000-year-old cranium (by Javier Trueba)

According to the researchers the remains of the individual can be associated with the Acheulean stone tool industry, on the basis of faunal remains and stone tools, including numerous bifacial handaxes, found at the site. The Aroeria cranium increases the anatomical diversity in the human fossil record from this time period, suggesting different populations showed somewhat different combinations of features.

Virtual model of the cranium (by Rolf Quam)

The cranium was found during excavations in the season of 2014 at the site. It was removed from the site in a large, solid block, transported to the restoration laboratory at the Centro de Investigacion sobre la Evolucion y Comportamiento Humanos, a paleoanthropology research centre in Madrid. It took two years to prepare and extract the remains. The process  involved archaeologists who have excavated at the site for many years, the preparator who removed the fossil from its surrounding breccia, researchers who CT scanned the specimen and made virtual reconstructions and the anthropologists who studied the fossil.

Tools from Aroeira site (by Rolf Quam)

(after Rolf Quam, Javier Trueba, PhysOrg & Popular Archaeology)

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