Middle Pleistocene mortality pattern and fertility: the case of the Atapuerca hominids (Sima de los Huesos site, Burgos, Spain).


The Sima de los Huesos cave site in the Sierra de Atapuerca, northern Spain, has yielded up to the 1994 season a large sample of more than one thousand human fossil remains belonging to at least 32 individuals, which represent a same European Middle Pleistocene biological population. The elaboration of the survivorship curve of this hominid group has emphasized a high mortality among adolescents and young adults, a low older adult mortality and a longevity probably non greater than 40 years. This pattern of mortality resembles to that of other European Middle and early Upper Pleistocene hominids, and is quite different from that observed in recent foraging human groups. Consideration of the main determinants of human fertility suggests that the average interval between successful births in Atapuerca, and probably in ali European Middle Pleistocene populations, was shorter than that of living hunting and gathering peoples, and that the age at menarche and nubility was earlier than those of living girls. lmplications of these findings for the yet unresolved question of body sexual dimorphism in the Middle Pleistocene populations are discussed as well.

Palabras clave

Middle Pleistocene, Atapuerca, paleodemography, fertility, sexual dimorphism.

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