New data on the sexual dimorphism of the hand stencils in El Castillo Cave (Cantabria, Spain)

The determination of the sex of the individuals who placed their hands on cave walls in order to leave the stenciled paintings of their hands, has been the subject of considerable debate in recent years. Many research projects have been carried out with varied results. This study has attempted to obtain new data through an experimental approach that is then applied to the prehistoric hand stencils in El Castillo Cave. In the experiment, 77 samples (hand stencils) of western adults from the Iberian Peninsula, 46 women and 31 men, were taken. For each modern individual (22 women and 18 men), both the stencils and the real size of their hands were measured. This data was then compared with the Paleolithic stencils to determine whether there was a range of variation between the negative image and the actual hand. The measurements taken into account were the general hand length, index finger length and ring finger length. Discriminatory statistical analysis was used for the experimental work and the measurements collected in the field. In the data obtained in the experimental study, significant differences were observed in the length of male and female fingers, but not in the ring fingers themselves. Discriminant analyses show that it is the absolute finger lengths and not the ring fingers that are able to discriminate between men and women. By applying this function to 21 stenciled hands in El Castillo Cave, it was found that 11 belong to women and 10 to men, indicating equal gender representation. Three of the 21 hands may be wrongly sexed according to the discriminant function. However, there is a significant difference between the real finger measurements and the measurements of their stencils in the experimental study, as the negative images overestimate the real values.

Early Pleistocene hominin deciduous teeth from the Homo antecessor Gran Dolina-TD6 bearing level (Sierra de Atapuerca, Spain)

Objectives. During the last 13 years, the late Early Pleistocene Gran Dolina-TD6-2 level (Sierra de Atapuerca, northern Spain) has yielded an additional sample of 26 dental specimens attributed to Homo antecessor. In this report, we present a descriptive and comparative study of the six deciduous teeth. Methods. We provide external and internal morphological descriptions following classical terminology, as well as the mesiodistal and buccolingual measurements of the teeth. The internal morphology was described by means of micro-CT technique. Results. The TD6 deciduous teeth preserve primitive features regarding the Homo clade, such as the presence of styles in lower and upper canines and developed anterior and posterior foveae in the dm2. However, other features related to the complexity of the crown morphology (e.g., cingulum) are not present in this sample. Furthermore, the great reduction of the talonid of the dm1s is also noteworthy. Despite the limited comparative evidence, the presence of a remarkably well-developed tuberculum molare in the dm1 and dm1s from TD6 can be also considered a derived feature in the genus Homo. The TD6 hominins exhibit dental dimensions similar to those of other Pleistocene hominins. The dm1s are buccolingually elongated and the buccolingual diameter of ATD6-93 is the largest recorded so far in the Homo fossil record. Conclusions. This study expands the list of plesiomorphic features of H. antecessor, and provides some information on the evolutionary status of this species. However, the identification of some advanced traits evinces a step towards the derived morphology of European Pleistocene teeth. The study of the deciduous dentition confirms the mosaic pattern of H. antecessor morphology revealed in previous studies of this hominin sample.