The ‘Boy from the Great Dolina’, from the Sierra de Atapuerca, was a girl, according to the Dental Anthropology group of the National Center for Research on Human Evolution (CENIEH), which has made public for the first time the estimate of the sex of two individuals of the species Homo antecessor that inhabited this area about 800,000 years ago.
As reported by CENIEH in a statement, this Tuesday the magazine ‘Journal of Anthropological Sciences’ publishes a study by the CENIEH Dental Anthropology Group, in which the first sexual estimate of two of the most emblematic fossils of the Sierra de Atapuerca (Burgos) found at level TD6 of Gran Dolina is released.
They belong to the species Homo antecessor -dated around 800,000 years before present-: the individual H1, from which the species was defined, and the individual H3, known until now as the ‘Chico de la Gran Dolina’, in reference to the title of a popular book.
The results show that canines of both individuals They present differences comparable to those observed between current women and men.
This fact has established that the fossil H1 was probably a male individual, while the fossil H3 was probably a female individual, “that is, the ‘Chico de la Gran Dolina’ would actually be the ‘Chica de la Gran Dolina'”, stated the leader of this research, Cecilia García- Fields.
The human remains found at level TD6 of Gran Dolina have been analyzed by many researchersHowever, to date it had not been possible to assess sexual dimorphism, that is, the anatomical difference between the sexes, of this population.
This is because most of the individuals included in the Homo antecessor sample are immature individuals, that is, they have not yet reached adolescence, which complicates their sexual estimation. To all this is added the difficulty of having only small fragments of the skeleton.
“Until now, only the sex of a small tooth fragment was known, from which enamel proteins were obtained, but this study opens a new, very reliable way to estimate sex using a non-destructive method “, said José María Bermúdez, coordinator of the CENIEH Paleobiology Program and co-director of the Atapuerca sites. of Castro.
Teething, key in identifying sex
As in other similar studies, the dentition has been the key to achieving the estimation of the sex of the individuals, which has been achieved through the study of the proportions of the dental tissues of the canines, or fangs.
The enamel and dentin dimensions of these teeth are sexually dimorphic features, that is, they allow differentiating male and female individuals within a population.
For this reason, his study has been used previously to estimate sex in both forensic samples, reaching success rates of up to 92.3 percent, in fossil populations, such as in the Neanderthal sample from Krapina (Croatia) or the pre-Neanderthal population. from Sima de los Huesos, also from the Sierra de Atapuerca.
The teeth offer the advantage of completing their training early, so they allow estimating the sex even of immature individuals, which is especially useful in the field of paleoanthropology.
Specifically, the methodologies based on permanent canines, the teeth that present the highest degree of sexual dimorphism in human dentition, allow identifying the sex of individuals from six years of age, the age at which their crown has already formed. completely. One of the most interesting results of this study has been to find out that the remains of the individual H3 from Gran Dolina they belonged to a girl between 9 and 11 years old.
The Girl from the Big Dolina surely had a stature and body proportions similar to those of a current girl of her age, although it is possible that she had developed earlier.
Although not much is yet known about what his life was like more than 800,000 years ago, more is known about how his story ended.
The human remains found at level TD6 of Gran Dolina, including those of individual H3, show clear evidence of cannibalism, which can be seen in the visible cuts in the skeletal remains of these individuals, probably the result of a confrontation between rival groups according to some hypotheses.