Dictionary of Human Evolution and Biology

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Herto Hominids

Several calvaria recovered in 1997 from the Herto member of the Bouri formation deposits in the Middle Awash, Afar rift region of Ethiopia, radioisotopically dated to c. 160-154 kya (40Ar/39Ar). They were described in 2003; the holotype was assigned field number BOU-VP-16/1. Characteristics of this specimen include a long and high vault and a strongly flexed occiput with a massive occipital protuberance. A presumed male, the mastoid processes are large and projecting; the zygomatic bone is orbitally robust. Alveolar prognathism is moderate. The glabellar region is prominent with rugose and well defined double-arched supra-orbital tori; the estimated cranial capacity is 1450 cm3. The calvaria show signs of slight post-mortem distortion; the left frontal bone was lost before discovery. Linear measurements are within or near the limits of Homo sapiens, and do not suggest an affinity with Neandertals. This calvaria is attributed to Homo sapiens idaltu subsp. nov. Three other specimens were also found: a partial calvaria from a second major specimen, an even larger adult, BOU-VP-16/2; a left parietal fragment, BOU-VP-16/43 (calotte); and a nearly complete immature cranium, BOU-VP-16/5. BOU-VP-16/1, -16/2 and -16/5 each exhibit defleshing cutmarks. Associated archaeological assemblages contain elements of both Acheulean and Middle Stone Age industries, and additional evidence of systematic butchery of hippopotamus carcases.

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