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A complete human pelvis from the Middle Pleistocene of Spain


The Middle Pleistocene site of Sima de los Huesos in Sierra de Atapuerca, Spain, has yielded around 2,500 fossils from at least 33different hominid individuals1. These have been dated at more than 200,000 years ago2,3,4 and have been classified as ancestors of Neanderthals5,6. An almost complete human male pelvis (labelled Pelvis 1) has been found, which we associate with two fragmentary femora. Pelvis 1 is robust and very broad with a very long superior pubic ramus, marked iliac flare, and a long femoral neck. This pattern is probably the primitive condition from which modern humans departed. A modern human newborn would pass through the birth canal of Pelvis 1 and this would be even larger in a female individual. We estimate the body mass of this individual at 95 kg or more. Using the cranial capacities of three specimens from Sima de los Huesos, the encephalization quotients are substantially smaller than in Neanderthals and modern humans.

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Figure 1: Superior view of Pelvis 1.
Figure 2: Ventral view of Pelvis 1.
Figure 3: Cross-sections of the superior pubic rami at the highest point of the obturator foramen in Jinniushan8 and six SH specimens.


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We thank G. Manzi, Y. Rak and I. Hershkovitz for comments on the manuscript, and J. Trueba for providing the photographs. C.L. received a grant from Ayuntamiento de Madrid in the Residencia de Estudiantes. This research is partly funded by the Junta de Castilla y León, the Dirección General de Enseñanza Superior of Spain (PB93-0066-C03), Comunidad de Madrid (CAM 06/0037/1997) and Unidades Asociadas (CSIC).

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Arsuaga, JL., Lorenzo, C., Carretero, JM. et al. A complete human pelvis from the Middle Pleistocene of Spain. Nature 399, 255–258 (1999).

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