Early and Middle Pleistocene hominins from Atapuerca (Spain) show differences in dental developmental patterns

The Bayesian statistical approach considers teeth as forming a developmental module, as opposed to a tooth-by-tooth analysis. This approach has been employed to analyze Upper Pleistocene hominins, including Neandertals and some anatomically modern humans, but never earlier populations. Here, we show its application on five hominins from the TD6.2 level of the Gran Dolina site (Homo antecessor, Early Pleistocene) and the Sima de los Huesos site (Middle Pleistocene) of the Sierra de Atapuerca (Burgos, northern Spain). Our results show an advanced development of the third molars in both populations with respect to modern Homo sapiens. In addition, the Sima de los Huesos hominins differ from H. sapiens and H. antecessor in the relatively advanced development of their second molar. The relative mineralization of I1/M1 in H. antecessor appears to be similar to that of modern humans, as opposed to that of Neandertals, which appear to be unique. These observations, combined with reduced enamel formation times and the advanced development of the third molars, appear to indicate a shorter ontogenetic period in the hominins from Gran Dolina and Sima de los Huesos in comparison to modern human average.

New methodology to reconstruct in 2-D the cuspal enamel of modern human lower molars

Objectives In the last years different methodologies have been developed to reconstruct worn teeth. In this article, we propose a new 2-D methodology to reconstruct the worn enamel of lower molars. Our main goals are to reconstruct molars with a high level of accuracy when measuring relevant histological variables and to validate the methodology calculating the errors associated with the measurements. Methods This methodology is based on polynomial regression equations, and has been validated using two different dental variables: cuspal enamel thickness and crown height of the protoconid. In order to perform the validation process, simulated worn modern human molars were employed. The associated errors of the measurements were also estimated applying methodologies previously proposed by other authors. Results The mean percentage error estimated in reconstructed molars for these two variables in comparison with their own real values is −2.17% for the cuspal enamel thickness of the protoconid and −3.18% for the crown height of the protoconid. This error significantly improves the results of other methodologies, both in the interobserver error and in the accuracy of the measurements. Conclusions The new methodology based on polynomial regressions can be confidently applied to the reconstruction of cuspal enamel of lower molars, as it improves the accuracy of the measurements and reduces the interobserver error. The present study shows that it is important to validate all methodologies in order to know the associated errors. This new methodology can be easily exportable to other modern human populations, the human fossil record and forensic sciences.