Last week, PLoS One published a paper re-dating the BH-1 specimen from Balanica. The new dates are 397 and 525 ka. The new dates are at least 280,000 years older than the previously published study. At this time, Neandertal traits were distinct in Europe.

BH-1 Hominin Mandible Fragment

BH-1 Hominin Mandible Fragment

But the mandible fragment features a primitive prominent planum alveolare, and a thick mandibular corpus. The exomolar sulcus is wide. A flat rather than concave sublingual fossa is present. And there is poor definition of the submandibular fossa. Given the size of the mandibular body, and that the dentition is relatively small; there is a complete lack of derived Neandertal features. Ultimately, this specimen fits well with Middle Pleistocene European archaic Homo specimens like Kocabaş, Vasogliano and Ceprano.

With the dates pushed back via electron spin resonance combined with uranium series isotopic analysis and infrared/post-infrared luminescence dating, the authors aim to further their claim that this niche area of the Balkans offered refuge. Unlike their counterparts, these humans in southeastern Europe were never geographically segregated from Asia and Africa by the glaciations that isolated and ultimately speciated other European humans.

Rink, W., Mercier, N., Mihailović, D., Morley, M., Thompson, J., & Roksandic, M. (2013). New Radiometric Ages for the BH-1 Hominin from Balanica (Serbia): Implications for Understanding the Role of the Balkans in Middle Pleistocene Human Evolution PLoS ONE, 8 (2) DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0054608

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