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On the trail of the genus Homo between archaic and derived morphologies.

  • Manzi, Giorgio1
  • 1 SAPIENZA Università di Roma, Dipartimento di Biologia Ambientale, Piazzale Aldo Moro 5, 00185, Roma, Italy. [email protected] , (Italy)
Published Article
Journal of anthropological sciences = Rivista di antropologia : JASS
Publication Date
Jan 01, 2012
DOI: 10.4436/jass.90018
PMID: 23274748


The topic of this review is the evolution of the genus Homo, focusing on evolutionary transitions that occurred during the Early and Middle Pleistocene. Two crucial issues are addressed in particular: 1) the emergence in the Early Pleistocene of the archaic variant of Homo that might represent the last common ancestor before the emergence of at least two (more probably three) geographically distinct trajectories; and (2) the evolution of these derived lineages, ultimately leading to the allopatric speciations of the most encephalised species of Homo: H. neanderthalensis and H. sapiens. In this framework, the time window between 1.0 million years ago (Ma) and 500 thousand years ago (ka) is of crucial importance, since it is probable that a new kind of humanity emerged in this period and then spread across a wide area encompassing Africa and Eurasia. These humans are represented by a number of specimens that are included within the single, polymorphic, and widespread species H. heidelbergensis. It is suggested that, in the course of the Middle Pleistocene, this species diversified in a number of incipient species -or subspecies- geographically and phenotypically distinct from one another. The case-study furnished by the calvarium found near Ceprano, in Italy, is of great interest in this regard, since it displays the least derived morphology seen among the hypodigm of H. heidelbergensis, and may represent better than other specimens the ancestral morphotype (i.e., the stem subspecies) of this taxon.

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