Continuity versus discontinuity of the human settlement of Europe between the late Early Pleistocene and the early Middle Pleistocene. The mandibular evidence

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One of the most interesting aspects of the settlement of Europe is the possible continuity or discontinuity of the populations living in this continent during the Early and Middle Pleistocene. In this paper we present an analysis of the mandibular fossil record from four important Pleistocene European sites, Gran Dolina-TD6-2 (Sierra de Atapuerca), Mauer, Arago, and Atapuerca-Sima de los Huesos. We focus this study in the recognition of key derived mandibular features that may be useful to assess the relationship among the populations represented at these sites. In order to make an approach to the ecological scenario, we also present a short review and discussion of the archaeological and paleoenvironmental evidences at that time. Our results suggest that probably there was a demographic discontinuity between the late Early Pleistocene populations (MIS 21-MIS 19), and those dated to the MIS 15. Hybridization between residents and new settlers cannot be discarded. However, some features of the Gran Dolina-TD6 hominins point to some relationship between the population represented in this site (probably dated to the MIS 21) and the European Middle Pleistocene and early Late Pleistocene populations. A hypothetical scenario is presented in order to understand this apparent contradiction with the model of discontinuity
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