Tabun too? : a morphometric comparison of Upper Pleistocene mandibles
The site o f Tabun is one o f the most important hominid occupation sites in Southwest Asia. In the 1930’s a fairly complete female Neandertal skeleton (Tabun C l) was found along with an isolated male mandible (Tabun C2) in layer C of the stratigraphy. The remains of several individuals were also discovered in the nearby Skhul cave. The initial researchers included all the specimens in a single highly variable population which they regarded as expressing a wide range of morphological variation. Subsequent researchers chose to split the hominids into two groupings, with the remains from Tabun generally being regarded as Neandertals and those from Skhul considered early modems. Most studies of the material from Southwest Asia discuss the female Neandertal specimen from Tabun in some detail. The C2 mandible, however, has been virtually ignored in the literature. Morphometric and descriptive analyses were carried out on the C2 specimen. A total o f 19 Neandertals, 11 early modems and 42 recent Homo sapiens were included in the comparative samples. Six discriminant functions were produced, describing all regions o f the mandible. Seven morphological characteristics were also analyzed using the chi-square procedure to determine their manifestations in all three samples. Finally, descriptive analysis o f seven specimens, representing both Neandertals and early modems, was performed and compared with Tabun C2. The results o f both the statistical and descriptive analyses showed Tabun C2 to be most closely aligned with the early modems. This represents a departure from most past interpretations o f the specimen which have generally regarded it as a Neandertal. This early modem placement has several implications for the origins o f modem humans in Southwest Asia. For instance, at 120 kya. Tabun C2 antedates the early modems from the site o f Qafzeh and represents the earliest unequivocal evidence of modem human morphology in Africa or Western Eurasia. However, the presence o f several Neandertal characteristics in Tabun C2 suggests at least some genetic continuity between early modems and Neandertals in Western Eurasia.