A Neandertal foot phalanx from the Galeria de las Estatuas site (Sierra de Atapuerca, Spain)

Pablos, Adrian; Gomez-Olivencia, Asier; Luis Arsuaga, Juan

VL / 168 - BP / 222 - EP / 228
Objectives The Galeria de las Estatuas site (GE), a new Mousterian site at the Sierra de Atapuerca site complex (Spain), has revealed a Late Pleistocene detrital sequence with at least five lithostratigraphic units. These units have yielded evidence of Mousterian occupations with sporadic carnivore activity, and have provided datings of 80-112 ka BP using single-grain optically stimulated luminescence. This places the sequence at the end of MIS5 and beginning of the MIS4. We described here a complete adult human distal foot phalanx (GE-1573) recovered during the 2017 field season in the interface between lithostratigraphic units 3 and 4 (107-112 ka BP) in the GE-I test pit. Materials and method This phalanx (GE-1573) probably corresponds to the fifth toe from the right side due to the medial deviation of the distal tuberosity. We compared the metric variables of this phalanx to several fossil and recent Homo samples. Results Neandertals display foot phalanges that are broader and more robust than those of recent humans. Despite the scarcity of well-identified distal phalanges in the Homo fossil record, the GE-1573 phalanx is broad, long and robust when compared with recent and Upper Paleolithic modern humans. Discussion These traits, which align the GE-1573 foot phalanx with the Neandertal morphology, are consistent with the stratigraphic context, likely corresponding to one of the oldest Late Neandertals found inland on the Iberian Peninsula. Additionally, it provides the first evidence of a Neandertal human fossil in a stratigraphic context in the Sierra de Atapuerca.

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