A partial distal humerus from the Middle Pleistocene deposits at Bodo, Middle Awash, Ethiopia

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The Bodo partial distal humerus with an approximate age of 0.6 million years is one of the very few postcranial remains from the African Middle Pleistocene. Despite its fragmentary status, comparisons of the Bodo humerus with other fossil hominid and modern human samples reveal some insights into African hominids of this time period. The Bodo partial humerus displays distal humeral features very common in the European Middle and Late Pleistocene hominids, such as a relatively wide olecranon fossa and relatively thin lateral and medial pillars adjacent to the fossa. In Africa, the postcranial fossils from the Middle and Late Pleistocene exhibit a surprising amount of morphological diversity. The presence of ‘typically’ Neandertal traits in some, but not all, Homo ergaster, H. Rhodesiensis, and early H. sapiens, together with the greater similarity of some African specimens than others to recent humans, highlights the problem of interpreting the anatomical variation that characterizes African fossil humans. An analysis of frequency–based patterning can help us understand this striking variation. Populations of Middle Pleistocene African hominids, such as the one represented by the Bodo specimen studied here, may have been variable, and their skeletons may have contained a mosaic of modern and non–modern human traits.
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