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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2010 Oct 26;107(43):18386-91. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1012131107. Epub 2010 Oct 11.

Middle Pleistocene lower back and pelvis from an aged human individual from the Sima de los Huesos site, Spain.

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  • 1Centro Mixto Universidad Complutense de Madrid-Instituto de Salud Carlos III de Evolución y Comportamiento Humanos, 28029 Madrid, Spain.


We report a nearly complete lumbar spine from the Middle Pleistocene site of the Sima de los Huesos (SH) that is assigned to the previously published SH male Pelvis 1 [Arsuaga JL, et al. (1999). Nature 399: 255-258]. The "SH Pelvis 1 individual" is a unique nearly complete lumbo-pelvic complex from the human Middle Pleistocene fossil record, and offers a rare glimpse into the anatomy and past lifeways of Homo heidelbergensis. A revised reconstruction of Pelvis 1, together with the current fossil evidence, confirms our previous hypothesis that the morphology of this pelvis represents the primitive pattern within the genus Homo. Here we argue that this primitive pattern is also characterized by sexual dimorphism in the pelvic canal shape, implying complicated deliveries. In addition, this individual shows signs of lumbar kyphotic deformity, spondylolisthesis, and Baastrup disease. This suite of lesions would have postural consequences and was most likely painful. As a result, the individual's daily physical activities would have been restricted to some extent. Reexamination of the age-at-death agrees with this individual being over 45 y old, relying on the modern human pattern of changes of the articular surfaces of the os coxae. The presence of degenerative pathological lesions and the advanced age-at-death of this individual make it the most ancient postcranial evidence of an aged individual in the human fossil record. Additional nonpathological SH lumbo-pelvic remains are consistent with previous hypotheses, suggesting a less-pronounced sagittal spinal curvature in Neandertals compared with Homo sapiens.

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