Circum-Mediterranean population dynamics in the late Pleistocene : evidence from the Tangier (Morocco) maxilla
Hutchinson, Vance T.
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The recent controversy concerning the taxonomic affinities of the Tangier subadult maxilla is indicative of the continuous questions surrounding circum-Mediterranean human population interactions during the late Pleistocene. Some researchers have concluded that this fossil is distinct from modern humans and displays certain morphometric similarities to Neandertals. Conversely, other researchers state that the morphology of this maxilla falls within the range of modern humans. The present study has compared the Tangier maxilla to an augmented (n=91) and more age-specific (aged 7-11 years) sample of modern human subadults and Neandertal subadult specimens in an effort to address this controversy. Morphologically the Tangier maxilla shows features distinct from all maxillae in the modern human sample. Similarities to Neandertals were observed and include the lack of a canine fossa and an oblique inferior margin and retreating trajectory of the zygomatic root. Metrically this specimen, considered to be about 9 years of age at time of death, falls out of the range of modern human subadults in terms of absolute size, alveolar robusticity, and antero-posterior alveolar proportions. Although fragmentary, making definitive assignment to a human taxon problematic, the similarities of the Tangier maxilla to Neandertals are striking and important. The results of this study indicate that this fossil is distinct from modern humans of corresponding developmental age and that it displays similarities to Neandertals. A genetic relationship is concluded to be the most appropriate explanation for this, and its implications in terms of the biogeography of the circum-Mediterranean during the late Pleistocene are discussed.