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J Hum Evol. 1999 Sep-Oct;37(3-4):591-622.

Human cannibalism in the Early Pleistocene of Europe (Gran Dolina, Sierra de Atapuerca, Burgos, Spain).

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The Natural History Museum, Cromwell Road, London, SW7 5BD, U.K.


Human remains belonging to at least six individuals were found in an exploratory excavation made at the site of Gran Dolina (Sierra de Atapuerca, Burgos, Spain). These remains were recovered from the Aurora Stratum of Unit TD6. This stratum has a thickness of approximately 30 cm. The area of the exploratory excavation is about 7 m(2). According to palaeomagnetic analyses, Unit TD6 shows reversed polarity, which is considered to belong to the Matuyama chron. This unit is immediately below TD7, where the Matuyama-Brunhes boundary has been detected, indicating an age of around 780,000 years BP. There is no specific distribution, treatment, or arrangement of the human remains, which were found randomly mixed with abundant faunal remains and stone tools. Most of the faunal and human fossil bones from the Aurora Stratum have human induced damage. Stone tool cutmarks are frequent, and peeling (a type of fracture similar to bending a fresh twig between the hands) provides a specific breakage pattern together with percussion marks and chopmarks. Both nonhuman and human remains show similar intensive exploitation. Slight differences, however, have been observed between fauna and humans (e.g., peeling frequent in humans, rare in fauna), that appear related to different musculature, weight, and bone structure. The characteristics of this fossil assemblage suggest that it is solely the result of consumptive activities as there is no evidence of ritual or other intention. The possibility of distinguishing between dietary vs. survival cannibalism is discussed here.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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