“Explorers,” the new book by Jose Maria Bermudez de Castro said the latest ideas of science on the occurrence of the first representatives of our species.
Is codirector of the Atapuerca sites and protagonist, personally, one of the most exciting scientific adventures of all those written in our country. For nearly three decades, has struggled to resonate in the world, and respect the voice of a group of Spanish scientists is making history. Now, with “Explorers” , his latest book (Editorial Debate), go thirty years of hard work and exceptional discoveries have placed Atapuerca, Spain and among the countries that have more to say about the origin of man, one of most exciting scientific mysteries of today.
– Why Explorers title?
‘It’s the Homo antecessor, one of the most important discoveries of all that have been made in Atapuerca. In its Latin origin, means antecessor precursor browser. It’s been a million years, these hominids came to Europe and settled.
– How did Atapuerca?
Beginnings were difficult. You have to be at the end of the twentieth century, with a science officer rejected all our findings and conclusions. And we rejected just because of being Spanish. Official science then was Anglo, and saw with whatever reluctance not to lower their scope and control. Any investigation, Chinese, Spanish, etc.. was, by definition, suspect.
– Is that still true today?
– No. Today that has changed, although there are still some reticiencias … But it was precisely this rejection of what he did even though we were determined. In 1994 appeared Homo antecessor, and when we suggested it could be, for its mix of features, a common ancestor of our own species, Homo sapiens and Neanderthals was considered a daring.
– Are you still thinking is that Homo antecessor common ancestor?
– Now, from the maturity and experience accumulated over the years, we are rethinking things. In the book I try to reflect these thoughts, which lead me to see the genus Homo in a very different. I think that Eurasia had a much greater role in the origin of modern Europeans than they thought. And we are reconsidering some of these criticisms of the ninety-reestudiándolas. Now I think antecessor may not have the common ancestor we thought at first.
– Why? – because, quite simply, is too old. Have become increasingly precise dating, and the result of each throw more seniority than the last. We are now touching the million years, and that’s too far back in time to be a direct ancestor. Genetics tells us that the limit for a direct legacy should not exceed 400,000 years. It could, yes, be a “cousin” very related to the true direct ancestor of the two species.
– Could it be that ancestor Homo heildelbergensis, the species that appeared in the Pit of Bones at Atapuerca and attributed more than 500,000 years old?
– I think not, because it is very derivative heidelbergensis to Neanderthals.Antecessor is very primitive and features of sapiens and Neanderthals. From the anatomical point of view Antecessor would best candidate, but from the point of view of genetics is too old.
– Does that mean that the real common ancestor of Neanderthals and sapiens has not yet been discovered?
– Yes, exactly.Perhaps the common ancestor was a real undiscovered hominid that had lived among antecessor a million years ago, and humans from Sima. – Could this hominid “intermediate” mentioned appear also in Atapuerca?- Sure I could. Although I am more convinced that appear in the Middle East.
– Why? – Because it is the most likely migration route out of Africa. 1.8 million years ago early humans left Africa and dispersed. First, to Asia and later to Europe. They passed through what is known as the “Levantine Corridor”, a narrow strip that runs through what is now Israel, Lebanon, Jordan … is a very narrow and is especially suited for the step. The point is that, today, the true origin of modern humans and Neanderthals remains a mystery, an unresolved issue.
– What is the current status of Atapuerca? Is the crisis affecting the excavations? – Absolutely. The best part of Atapuerca was between 2001 and two years ago. Now we are two years with cuts and the situation is getting worse. So far we have been able to absorb those cuts, but the risk of more and that negatively affect the excavation. – Do you have designed a strategy? – The basis of all the fossils, and the priority is to continue producing Atapuerca fossils and that these fossils are studied. You can give up time of excavation, including the number of diggers who will do it. What can not be waived is to dig, because that is the true source of wealth. In 2010 Atapuerca generated only in the region of Burgos, 54 million euros and 1,130 direct working. – July field season begins this year. It will be more modest than the previous ones? – No. This year the campaign has raised just like last year, because the Atapuerca Foundation has been providing funds that has cut administration. But this applies only to this year, is a situation that can not last … – What do you expect to find in this campaign? – Well, at Atapuerca are no surprises every year. But apart from that, we have excellent prospects to locate a human camp nearly a million years. The official doctrine is that Europe was “colonized” not once but several times. The first settlers came for about a million and a half years, but became extinct. Then came others, who also died, and so heilderbergensis Homo. If we find human remains in a million years, the idea of this alleged discontinuity of humans in Europe would go to ruin.