Metric and shape features of the Lower Pleistocene mandibular specimen ATD605 from the level 6 of Gran Dolina site (Atapuerca, Spain) are compared with a large sample of fossil hominid mandibles. The analysis shows that ATD6-5 displays a generalized morphology largely shared with both African and European Lower and Middle Pleistocene samples. However, distinctive African traits, such as corpus robustness and strong alveolar prominence, are absent in the Gran Dolina specimen. At the same time, none of the apomorphic features that characterize Middle and early Upper Pleistocene European hominids can be recognized in ATD6-5. Finally, the Gran Dolina specimen displays a remarkable position of the mylohyoid groove, only comparable to that found in immature specimens of Homo ergaster, and very rarely in adult H. sapiens. The morphology of ATD6-5 supports the hypothesis of an African origin for the first Europeans with subsequent phylogenetic continuity with Middle Pleistocene populations in Europe. These findings are consistent with H. antecessor being the last common ancestor of Neandertals and H. sapiens.
Copyright 1999 Academic Press.