A cranium for the earliest Europeans: phylogenetic position of the hominid from Ceprano, Italy

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2001 Aug 14;98(17):10011-6. doi: 10.1073/pnas.151259998.


The human fossil evidence unequivocally pertaining to the first inhabitants of Europe at present includes the sample from Atapuerca-TD6 (Spain) and the incomplete adult calvaria discovered near Ceprano, in Southern Latium (Italy). On the basis of regional correlations and a series of absolute dates, the age of the Ceprano hominid is estimated to range between 800 and 900 kilo-annum (ka). In addition, the association with archaic (Mode 1) Paleolithic findings from the same area is suggested. After the completed reconstruction of the calvaria, we present here a new study dealing with the general and more detailed aspects of the morphology displayed by Ceprano, in comparison to fossil samples ranging between Early and Middle Pleistocene. According to our results, cranial features indicate that Ceprano represents a unique morphological bridge between the clade Homo ergaster/erectus and later Middle Pleistocene specimens commonly referred to Homo heidelbergensis (and/or to Homo rhodesiensis), particularly those belonging to the African fossil record that ultimately relates to the origin of modern humans. In conclusion, given its geographical, chronological, and phylogenetic position, an attribution to the species Homo antecessor is considered, although the sample from Atapuerca-TD6 is not directly comparable to Ceprano. Alternatively, a new species-ancestral to later European and African hominines-should be named to accommodate such a unique fossil specimen.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cephalometry
  • Fossils*
  • Hominidae / anatomy & histology*
  • Hominidae / classification
  • Humans
  • Italy
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Phylogeny
  • Skull / anatomy & histology*