Modern human crania

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By the end of the Middle Pleistocene, people throughout the inhabited world had attained brain sizes in the range of living people. Technology had ad- vanced beyond the Acheulean in Africa and Europe, with more regional vari- ability and new tool types. But still, these ancient people were very different from living humans. They retained large faces and teeth, a sloping forehead, browridges, and other features that remain rare today. Even within the past 200,000 years, substantial evolutionary changes still were happening to an- cient people, transforming their bodies and brains.

In comparison with most Middle Pleistocene fossils, living people usually have several features:

a more vertical forehead a more rounded cranial vault profile the reduction and loss of a browridge the reduction in size of the face and the presence of a chin

These are sometimes called modern human features, because they are found in living populations and their immediate ancestors. These modern human features were not found equally in all regions during the Late Pleistocene. Most of them appeared first in Africans, particularly in the 190,000-year-old Omo I skull and the 165,000-year-old Herto crania. Somewhat later, these early modern humans ranged across Africa from the Mediterranean coast all the way to South Africa. By 100,000 years ago, a series of fossil individuals from present-day Israel shows the influence of these modern features.

Only after 50,000 years ago did these modern human anatomies spread across South Asia, into Australasia and Australia, north into China, and northwest into Europe.

Examine the crania at this station, which represent the earliest modern humans from present-day Israel (Skhul, around 100,000 years old), and from Europe. How are they different from the skulls of recent humans? How are they different from Neandertals?