A comparative study of the Late Middle European Pleistocene Montmaurin-La-Niche (MLN). Preliminary results

A comparative study of the Late Middle European Pleistocene Montmaurin-La-Niche (MLN). Preliminary results
Journal 7th Annual ESHE Meeting
Authors Vialet, Amélie; Bermúdez de Castro, José María; Modesto-Mata, Mario; Martinón-Torres, María; Martínez de Pinillos, Marina
Volume PESHE 6
Year 2017
Among several caves settled in the limestone mountain shaped by the Save and Seygouade rivers near Montmaurin, 75km south-west of Toulouse (France), La Niche is the one, with Coupe-Gorge, which has yielded human remains collected by Raoul Cammas in 1949 (one cervical vertebra, one well-preserved mandible bearing its 6 molars) and recognized among the fauna by Cammas and André Tavoso in 1986 (one dorsal vertebra, one fragmentary left tibia). Work done by Crégut-Bonnoure and colleagues on the faunal assemblage has attributed the level bearing hominins to the OIS 7 placing the Montmaurin-La-Niche (MLN) in an intermediate location between Middle Pleistocene fossils such as those from Arago (Tautavel, France) and Sima de los Huesos (Atapuerca, Spain), in the one hand, and Neandertals, in the other hand. Here we have made a morphological comparative study using some selected features with a taxonomical signal. In order to cluster the specimens we have used the correspondence analysis using the R package “ca”. Moreover, a metrical and morphological study was carried out on the teeth, including an analysis of the dental inner features by means of micro-computed tomography (microCT). Results highlight the primitiveness of the MLN mandible whereas a more fully Neandertal morphology was expected regarding the time range of the fossil. Although a geochronological study of La Niche cave is pending, it will be an interesting exercise to confront the predominant primitive morphology of this mandible with the quantitative results of a future geochronological analysis. Thus, it is possible to test these anthropological results against the different models, like the accretion and two-phases model, to explain the variability of the European Middle Pleistocene hominins. It will be also tested the evolutionary scenario proposing a settlement of Europe by some waves of population sharing a common ancestor [4], as well as a complex history of wipe-outs and new occupations, as well as genetic mechanisms, like drift, founder effect, directional adaptation and hybridization.

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