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Most #anthropologists agree that if you traced your ancestry back about 1 million years, you’d find a population of Homo erectus. From the neck down, the creatures resembled present-day people: They had modern stature and body #proportions, distinguished by relatively long legs and short arms. But no H. erectus would be mistaken for a #H. sapiens. With hulking brows and flatter skulls, the species had brains about two-thirds our size: The average volume of 30 well-preserved H. erectus skulls was 950 cm3, compared to 1350 cm3 for recent humans.
Fast-forward to 300,000 years ago and the H. erectus lineage gave rise to at least three varieties of humans: #European-based #Neanderthals, #Denisovans in #Asia and the ancestors of all living people, #Homo sapiens in #Africa.
The intervening span is what anthropologists call “the muddle in the middle”. The time period is characterized by poorly understood fossils, book-ended by better-studied H. erectus and #modern humans.
Between H. erectus and H. sapiens, intermediate species existed, variably named Homo #heidelbergensis, Homo #rhodesiensis or Homo antecessor, depending on a researcher’s views. Many anthropologists just call the whole bunch Middle Pleistocene hominins, after the geologic time period 130,000 to 780,000 years ago.
One spectacular site, Sima de los Huesos in #Spain, has yielded the most Mid-Pleistocene hominin remains. Excavations there since the 1980s have unearthed more than 7,000 fossils representing at least 28 individuals dated to 430,000 years ago.