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Comparative Study
, 61 (2), 245-54

The Lake Ndutu Cranium and Early Homo Sapiens in Africa

Comparative Study

The Lake Ndutu Cranium and Early Homo Sapiens in Africa

G P Rightmire. Am J Phys Anthropol.


The partial cranium from Lake Ndutu, near Olduvai Gorge in northern Tanzania, has generally been viewed as Homo erectus, although points of similarity to H. sapiens have also been recognized. Bones of the vault are in fact quite thick, and the cranium is small. Length and breadth dimensions are comparable to those of earlier H. erectus from Koobi Fora and Ileret, and the Ndutu individual is more similar in size to O.H. 12 than to O.H. 9. Unfortunately, the facial skeleton and frontal bone are very incomplete, and little useful information can be obtained from these parts of the existing reconstruction. The parietals are also damaged, but the left temporal is more satisfactorily preserved, and the occiput is nearly complete. Occipital morphology, mastoid shape, and characteristics of the glenoid cavity and tympanic plate probably provide the best available guide to affinities of the Ndutu hominid. In many of these features the cranium resembles Broken Hill, Elandsfontein, and other African fossils referred to archaic H. sapiens. There are some similarities to modern humans also, but no ties to the Neanderthals of Europe. Allocation of Ndutu to an African subspecies of H. sapiens seems most appropriate, even if the pattern of relationships between such archaic populations and recent humans is still unclear.

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