Here we analyze the unpublished hominin dental remains recovered from the late Early Pleistocene Gran Dolina-TD6.2 level of the Sierra de Atapuerca (northern Spain), as well as provide a reassessment of the whole TD6.2 hominin dental sample. Comparative descriptions of the outer enamel surface (OES) and the enamel-dentine junction (EDJ) are provided. Overall, the data presented here support the taxonomic validity of Homo antecessor, since this species presents a unique mosaic of traits. Homo antecessor displays several primitive features for the genus Homo as well as some traits exclusively shared with Early and Middle Pleistocene Eurasian hominins. Some of these Eurasian traits were retained by the Middle Pleistocene hominins of Europe, and subsequently became the typical condition of the Neanderthal lineage. Although other skeletal parts present resemblances with Homo sapiens, TD6.2 teeth do not show any synapomorphy with modern humans. In addition, TD6.2 teeth can be well differentiated from those of Asian Homo erectus. The dental evidence is compatible with previous hypothesis about H. antecessor belonging to the basal population from which H. sapiens, Homo neanderthalensis, and Denisovans emerged. Future findings and additional research may help to elucidate the precise phylogenetic link among them.
Several human dental traits typical of modern humans appear to be associated with the prolonged period of development that is a key human attribute. Understanding when, and in which early hominins, these dental traits first appeared is thus of strong interest. Using x-ray multiresolution synchrotron phase-contrast microtomography, we quantify dental growth and development in an archaic Homo juvenile from the Xujiayao site in northern China dating to 161,000–224,000 years or 104,000–125,000 years before present. Despite the archaic morphology of Xujiayao hominins, most aspects of dental development of this juvenile fall within modern human ranges (e.g., prolonged crown formation time and delayed first molar eruption). For its estimated age-at-death (6.5 years), its state of dental development is comparable to that of equivalently aged modern children. These findings suggest that several facets of modern human dental growth and development evolved in East Asia before the appearance of fully modern human morphology. An archaic Homo juvenile from the East Asian Middle-Late Pleistocene transition has surprisingly modern dental development. An archaic Homo juvenile from the East Asian Middle-Late Pleistocene transition has surprisingly modern dental development.
Enamel and dentin patterns have awakened a considerable interest in phylogenetic studies. However, almost nothing is known about the dental tissue proportions of European Pleistocene hominins, apart from Neanderthal populations. This study aims to assess the three-dimensional dental tissue proportions of permanent canines belonging to the extensive sample of hominin teeth at Sierra de Atapuerca (Spain) through the use of microtomographic techniques. Our results show that early and middle Pleistocene populations from Atapuerca exhibit large coronal and root dentine dimensions, as well as a thinly enamelled pattern, which has been traditionally considered an autapomorphic Neanderthal trait. Therefore, these results might support an early enamel thickness decrease which is already observed 800kyr ago in Homo antecessor and maintained in later groups such as Sima de los Huesos and Neanderthal populations during the middle Pleistocene. Résumé Les patrons de proportions de l’émail et de la dentine ont éveillé un intérêt considérable dans les études phylogénétiques. Cependant, on ne connaît encore presque rien sur les proportions des tissus dentaires des hominidés du Pléistocène européen, à l’exception de celles des populations néandertaliennes. La présente étude vise à évaluer les proportions tridimensionnelles des tissus dentaires des canines permanentes issues d’un échantillon exceptionnel de dents d’homininés d’Atapuerca (Espagne) en utilisant des techniques microtomographiques. Nos résultats montrent que les populations du Pléistocène moyen et inférieur d’Atapuerca possèdent des proportions de dentine radiculaire et coronaire élevées, ainsi qu’un patron d’émail fin qui a été traditionnellement considéré comme un caractère autapomorphique des Néandertaliens. Par conséquent, ces résultats appuient l’apparition précoce d’une diminution de l’épaisseur de l’émail depuis au moins 800 ka chez Homo antecessor. Ce patron d’émail fin est également observé dans d’autres groupes plus tardifs, tels que Sima de los Huesos et les populations néandertaliennes pendant le Pléistocène moyen.