FIELD TRIP: A Cave With a View

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Science  07 Dec 2001:
Vol. 294, Issue 5549, pp. 2059
DOI: 10.1126/science.294.5549.2059d

In 1994 archaeological digs on the hill of Atapuerca in northern Spain revealed a possible new human species, Homo antecessor, that some scientists argue is the common ancestor of modern humans and Neandertals (Science, 30 May 1997, p. 1331). Learn more about the Atapuerca excavations and this provocative find at the new English version of a Web site sponsored by the Universidad Complutense de Madrid in Spain.

Since 1978, three locations at Atapuerca have yielded a wealth of tools and thousands of animal and human bones spanning more than half a million years. Along with background text, the Web site's 1400 pages feature some nifty multimedia—including panoramic views that transport you to Atapuerca and three-dimensional reconstructions of fossils. More than 20 film clips let you scramble into caves with the researchers and highlight finds such as the rare complete skull of the 300,000-year-old H. heidelbergensis, the species that may have given rise to the Neandertals.

The bones tell some juicy tales, suggesting that life for these early Europeans was sometimes nasty, brutish, and short. Cut marks on some 800,000-year-old H. antecessor bones found in one cave, for instance, show that the inhabitants were feasting on human flesh. And the individual at the right, who died from an infection that spread from the teeth, had survived 13 solid blows to the head.

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