Homo antecessor is an extinct human species dating from 1.2 million to 800,000 years ago, that was discovered in the Sierra de Atapuerca of northern Spain by a team led by Eudald Carbonell in 1994. Homo antecessor is one of the earliest known human varieties in Europe [Falguères 1999].
1.2m to 800,000 years ago
Tool Maker, European
Fossils, Sierra de Atapuerca, Spain
Replica Gran Dolina Atapuerca, Spain
There is still debate over how Homo antecessor is related to other Homo species in Europe, and where it sits on the evolutionary tree. One theory suggests that it was an evolutionary link between Homo ergaster and Homo heidelbergensis. Another theory is that Homo antecessor is a separate species that evolved from Homo heidelbergensis. Finally, that Homo antecessor is the same species as Homo heidelbergensis, who inhabited Europe from 600,000 to 250,000 years ago in the Pleistocene.
The fossil of the upper jaw discovered in Spain belonged to a child, and is dated to approximately 800,000 years ago. Other fossil bones discovered in Spain and attributed to Homo antecessor show cuts, which may suggest cannibalism.
The Homo antecessor male would have stood approximately 1.6-1.8 meters tall, weighing around 90 kg. Their brain sizes were roughly 1,000-1,150 cm3, smaller than the 1,350 cm3 average of modern humans. It would have had a low forehead and small lower jaw and chin. In many ways, it would have resembled Homo ergaster and 'Turkana Boy'. There is evidence to suggest rudimentary speech.
Fossil and tools remains have also been discovered in England, suggesting that Homo antecessor lived in England about 950,000 years ago - the earliest known population of the genus Homo in Northern Europe [Moore 2010].