Considered for two decades to be the oldest human fossil found in France, the mandible has formed part of different comparative studies, and the description published by G. Billy and Henri V. Vallois in 1977 stands out. That work was undertaken more than 40 years ago, in the context of what was then known and of the theories then current on the colonization of the European continent.
However, human evolution in Europe was undoubtedly more complex than was thought only a couple of decades ago, as is explained in this paper entitled A reassessment of the Montmaurin-La Niche mandible (Haute Garonne, France) in the context of European Pleistocene human evolution, in which Mario Modesto, María Martinón-Torres and Marina Martínez de Pinillos also participated.
The possibility that there could have coexisted at least two hominin lineages, and that interbreeding, prolonged periods of isolation, genetic drift and other processes were habitual in the Middle Pleistocene in Europe is gaining momentum, while at the same time linear hypotheses such as “accretion” are losing ground.
“The appearance of the classic Neanderthals in the Late Pleistocene is a question by no means finally settled. There remain many open questions, and the Montmaurin-La Niche mandible now joins the list of X-files,” concludes Bermúdez de Castro. Paper. (public access) – Amélie Vialet et al. A reassessment of the Montmaurin-La Niche mandible (Haute Garonne, France) in the context of European Pleistocene human evolution, PLOS ONE (2018). DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0189714 More.
Funny, isn’t it, how we used to “know” way more about human evolution when we actually knew very little. On the whole, current ignorance is a very good sign. It’s hard to build anything on splintered lecterns.
Evolution is morphing from an ideology into a history, with all that that means about varying interpretations.
See also: In this week’s episode, slow immigration doomed the Neanderthals
Neanderthal Man: The long-lost relative turns up again, this time with documents
A deep and abiding need for Neanderthals to be stupid. Why?