Atapuerca scientists accused of distorting the theory of human evolution due to bone dating errors

Atapuerca scientists accused of distorting the theory of human evolution due to bone dating errors

Briton says Spanish researchers are have confused in 200,000 years and they even have the wrong species.

The largest group of human fossils and the most important paleontological site in Europe is Atapuerca, a cave in northern Spain. In this site they have been found dozens of ancient skeletons. UNESCO has included the so-called Sima de los Huesos in the list of World Heritage Sites due to the importance it represents when it comes to understand human evolution. The European Union has contributed millions of euros to the building a museum on human antiquity near the city of Burgos.

Britain's leading expert on human evolution, Professor Chris Stringer of the Museum of Natural History, has warned in Evolutionary Anthropolgy that the team in charge of The Sima de los Huesos misdated fossils to 200,000 yearsand has incorrectly identified the species of humans found.

One of the skulls of La Sima

Far from being a den of 600,000 years ago and where the species called Homo Heidelbergensis, he believes the remains belong to the Neanderthal, which places it no more than 400,000 years ago. This difference in interpretation is crucial to understanding human evolution.

According to Stringer, skeletal remains found in Atapuerca it is the largest collection in the world with finds of this type and that the teams in charge of the excavations have done a great job. "The Atapuerca findings are very important", it states. However, the problem comes at the time of dating the bones, since doing it wrong would affect to the construction of evolution.

The Sima de los Huesos was discovered by cavers who they were investigating in the Atapuerca cave. The excavations began in 1990, led by Juan Luis Arsuaga, from the University of Madrid. There they found remains such as skulls, ribs, jaws, and leg bones. Arsuaga has dated the findings of about 300,000 years ago.

Since that time, 28 bodies have been unearthed, making the place the world's largest cache of human fossils. During this time, Arsuaga and his team dated the remains 600,000 years ago and claimed that they belonged to Homo heidelbergensis. This dating has caused malaise among paleontologists. Scientists investigating at La Sima believe that the Homo heidelbergensis is a predecessor of Neanderthal but not from Homo Sapiens; However, others, including Stringer, believe it is a ancestor of our species.

The problem is that some of the skeletons have characteristics of the Neanderthalsuch as teeth or jaws. However, other evidence shows who did not live in the area during those 200,000 years.Dating these bones to such an early date completely distorts the view of our evolution"Says Stringer.

This criticism is supported by Phillip Endicott, of the Museum of Man in Paris. His studies on DNA show that man and man Neanderthal did not separate until 400,000 years ago. Another review is about the method used till the date. They have been based on the dating of a stalagmite found above the remains. However, it is believed that the bodies were actually thrown in reverence to the dead and the stalagmite it grew thanks to the sediments of the bones.

But this interpretation also causes controversy, since it has not been found no evidence of this behavior. Also, finger bones are missing, so if the bodies had been dumped whole, all the bones would be there.

Yolanda Fernández-Jalvo and Peter Andrews, from the Natural History Museum in Madrid and London, suggest that the absence of these bones is due to the fact that there may have been floods that will wash them away.

Asuaga has rejected the analyzes and admitted that his team may have dated the fossils too soon by stating that they were 600,000 years old. "We are working on it", said.

The Guardian

Graduated in Journalism and Audiovisual Communication, since I was little I have been attracted to the world of information and audiovisual production. Passion for informing and being informed of what is happening in every corner of the planet. Likewise, I am pleased to be part of the creation of an audiovisual product that will later entertain or inform people. My interests include cinema, photography, the environment and, above all, history. I consider it essential to know the origin of things to know where we come from and where we are going. Special interest in curiosities, mysteries and anecdotal events in our history.


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