Maba

Maba and Saccopastore (Wu and Bruner 2016)We have now published a study of the endocranial morphology of Maba, a Chinese fossil specimen dated approximately to the end of the Middle Pleistocene. The available portions of the upper face strongly resemble European Neandertals, like Saccopastore 1, found in Italy and supposed to have the same chronology of Maba, or Krapina 3, from Croatia. Also the spatial arrangement and the structural organization between face and braincase in Maba is reminescent of Neandertals. However, the frontal and parietal bones suggest an archaic endocranial morphology, more comparable with Homo heidelbergensis.  So we have here an archaic brain form assembled onto a derived facial block. A similar situation (Neandertal traits in the face and archaic features in the vault) was also described for the sample from Sima de los Huesos (Atapuerca, Spain). If such affinity is a matter of phylogeny, the range of the paleospecies H. heidelbergensisH. neanderthalensis should be revised, and extended to China. Otherwise, the facial Neandertal traits in this Chinese populations can be but a consequence of parallelism and analogy, and the specimen can therefore represent an archaic Asian taxon. Curiously, at the same time in Africa we have the opposite combination: Jebel Irhoud, a modern face with a Neandertal braincase! Definitely puzzling …

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