Base of skull 5, Sima de los Huesos

Base of skull 5, Sima de los Huesos

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Credit: JAVIER TRUEBA/MSF/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY

Caption: Base of skull 5, Sima de los Huesos. In 1992, the team working with Professor Juan Luis Arsuaga found skull 5 (Miguelon) at Sima de los Huesos (Pit of Bones), the best preserved skull known world-wide. With a capacity of 1125 cubic centimetres, it is the smallest skull of European Pleistocene man. This skull has made it possible to obtain trustworthy images of what early humans looked like. It was classified as Homo heidelbergensis, an extinct species that forms a relatively recent part of the human evolutionary tree. It may have been an ancestor of both Neanderthals and modern humans. There is debate over whether the fossils should be attributed to H. heidelbergensis or H. neanderthalensis, as some anatomical features are transitional between the two species. Sima de los Huesos is one of several sites in Sierra de Atapuerca, Spain, that have been studied on and off over the past century, leading to a massive advancement in the understanding of human evolution.In 2000, Sierra de Atapuerca was made a world heritage site by UNESCO.

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