The Faces of Ancient Hominids Brought to Life in Remarkable Detail
“Zinj” - Paranthropus boisei
“Zinj” is the name given to a 1.8 million-year-old skull of the Paranthropus boisei species found in 1959 in the Olduvai Gorge of Tanzania. Named after the original classification of the species, Zinjanthropus boisei, Zinj was the first one to be found belonging to this group of hominids. Paranthropus boisei lived in Eastern Africa from about 2.3 to 1.2 million years ago. They had a brain volume of about 500 to 550cc and they would have eaten seeds, plants and roots which were dug up using sticks of bones. Due to the strong jaw that would have also been used for cracking nuts, Zinj is also known as the ‘Nutcracker Man’.
This model is of an adult male of the species Homo rudolfensis, reconstructed from 1.8-million-year-old bone fragments found in Koobi Fora, Kenya, in 1972. He used stone tools and ate meat and plants. Homo rudolfensis lived from 1.9 to 1.7 million years ago and had a larger cranial capacity than his contemporaries, ranging from 530 to 750cc. They had distinctive features including a flatter, broader face and broader post-canine teeth, with more complex crowns and roots.
“Turkana Boy” - Homo ergaster
Finding ‘Turkana Boy’ was one of the most spectacular discoveries in palaeoanthropology. His reconstruction came from the almost perfectly preserved skeleton found in 1984 at Nariokotome near Lake Turkana in Kenya. It is the most complete early human skeleton ever found. Turkana Boy is believed to have been somewhere between 7 and 15 years of age and lived 1.6 million years ago. According to research, the boy died beside a shallow river delta, where he was covered by alluvial sediments. Homo ergaster lived between 1.8 and 1.3 million years ago and had a cranial capacity of 700 to 900 cc. Remains have been found in Tanzania, Ethiopia, Kenya, and South Africa.
“Miquelon” – Homo heidelbergensis
‘Miguelon’ is the name given to the remains of an adult male belonging to the Homo heidelbergensis group, discovered in Sima de los Huesos (“the pit of bones”), Spain, in 1993. More than 5,500 human fossils of this species, which are considered to be the direct ancestor of Neanderthals, have been found in the Sima de los Huesos site. Miguelon, which is the nickname of "Atapuerca 5", is the most complete skull of a Homo heidelbergensis ever found. Miguelon is a thirty-year-old male who died around 400,000 years ago. His skull showed evidence of 13 separate impacts and he died of septicaemia resulting from broken teeth – a tooth had been broken in half by a strong blow, so that the flesh had been exposed and led to an infectious process that continued until nearly the orbital bone. The model, shown here, does not include the deformity. Homo heidelbergensis lived between 1.3 million and 200,000 years ago. Their cranial volume of 1100 to 1400 cc overlaps the 1350 cc average of modern humans. Fossils of this species have been found in Spain, Italy, France and Greece.
“The Old Man of La Chapelle” - Homo neanderthalensis
The "Old Man of La Chapelle" was recreated from the skull and jaw of a Homo neanderthalensis male found buried in the limestone bedrock of a small cave near La Chapelle-aux-Saints, in France in 1908. He lived 56,000 years ago and was the first relatively complete skeleton of a Neanderthal ever found. Scientists estimate he was relatively old by the time he died, as bone had re-grown along the gums where he had lost several teeth, perhaps decades before. He lacked so many teeth in fact that it’s possible he needed his food ground down before he was able to eat it. The old man's skeleton indicates that he also suffered from a number of afflictions, including arthritis, and had numerous broken bones.
Neanderthals are generally classified by palaeontologists as the species Homo neanderthalensis, but some consider them to be a subspecies of Homo sapiens (Homo sapiens neanderthalensis). The first humans with proto-Neanderthal traits are believed to have existed in Europe as early as 600,000–350,000 years ago, and they died out around 30,000 years ago. The Neanderthal's cranial capacity was notably larger than the 1350 cc average for modern humans. However, they also had a larger body size. Recent research now points to the fact that they had the same or similar levels of intelligence as modern humans.
“The Hobbit” - Homo floresiensis
“The hobbit” is the name given to the female remains of hominid species known as Homo floresiensis, found in Liang Bua, Flores, Indonesia, in 2003. Name after her small stature, she was about 1 meter tall (about 3'3") and lived about 18,000 years ago. Partial skeletons of nine other individuals have now been recovered, and these have been the subject of intense research to determine whether they represent a species distinct from modern humans – it is now believed they do. This hominid is remarkable for its small body and brain (420 cc) and for its survival until relatively recent times (possibly as recently as 12,000 years ago)