Some years in the past, I wrote in regards to the skulls on my desk, asserting that any scientist value their salt ought to have no less than one. My skulls, nonetheless—six of them till not too long ago, are usually not simply “extraordinary” fashionable human skulls (a lot as I might like to have one), however quite replicas of well-known fossil hominid skulls and crania. It has been some time since I’ve added to my assortment, however Santa was good to me this previous Christmas, bringing me a duplicate of the “La Chapelle-aux-Saints 1” cranium of Homo neanderthalensis, and for at the moment’s birthday my spouse gave me a duplicate of the “Toumaï” skull of Sahelanthropus tchadensis.
The “La Chapelle-aux-Saints 1” cranium was found in 1908 in La Chapelle-aux-Saints, France and is considered about 50,000–60,000 years outdated. It was probably the most full Neanderthal cranium on the time it was found and had a mind capability exceeding 1600 cc—greater than most fashionable people. Sadly, preliminary reconstructions of Neanderthal anatomy primarily based on la Chapelle-aux-Saints materials depicted the species with thrust-forward skulls, stooped posture, bent hips and knees, and a divergent huge toe—reinforcing current synonymy of the time period “Neanderthal” with brutality and savagery. The errors have been finally corrected, however solely after many years had handed, and even at the moment this unfair characterization lingers nonetheless among the many common public.
This explicit particular person was a male, most likely round 40 years of age on the time of his dying, and sick. He had misplaced most of his tooth and was affected by resorption of bone within the mandible and arthritis. This has been extensively cited for instance of Neanderthal altruism, since with most of his tooth lacking he would have been unable to course of his personal meals. Later research, nonetheless, have proven that the La Chapelle-aux-Saints 1 particular person nonetheless had sufficient tooth in place to chew his personal meals, though maybe with some problem (Tappen 1985).
Sahelanthropus tchadensis was formally described in 2002 primarily based on cranial stays of no less than six people dated to about seven million years in the past throughout the Miocene epoch. “Toumaï” is probably the most full of all of the cranial stays, though it was crushed and badly deformed. Up to now, all of the fossils discovered of Sahelanthropus have come from a small space of northern Chad.
The age of Sahelanthropus places it across the time of the human-chimpanzee final widespread ancestor (HCLCA). On the time it was described, solely cranial fragments have been included within the unique description, and the place of the opening for the spinal chord was used to deduce that the species walked upright. Nonetheless, the cranium was truly discovered alongside a femur, which had been positioned with animal bones and excluded from the unique evaluation. Later evaluation of the femur concluded that Sahelanthropus was not bipedal (Macchiarelli et al. 2020), placing its standing as a doable relative of the HCLCA into doubt. One different chance that has been raised is that Sahelanthropus shouldn’t be ancestral to both people or chimpanzees, however quite to gorillas—a no much less important chance since only a few chimpanzee or gorilla fossils have been discovered wherever in Africa.
Macchiarelli, R., A. Bergeret-Medina, D. Marchi & B. Wooden. 2020. Nature and relationships of Sahelanthropus tchadensis. Journal of Human Evolution 149:102898. doi:10.1016/j.jhevol.2020.102898
Tappen, N. C. 1985. The dentition of the “Previous Man” of La Chapelle-aux-Saints and inferences regarding Neanderthal habits. American Journal of Bodily Anthropology 67(1):43–50. doi:10.1002/ajpa.1330670106
©️ Ted C. MacRae 2022