How old is the Montmaurin-La Niche hominin mandible in the Middle Pleistocene? A state of the question - Terre et Planetes Access content directly
Conference Poster Year : 2022

How old is the Montmaurin-La Niche hominin mandible in the Middle Pleistocene? A state of the question


The hominin mandible known as La Niche (LN) has been famous since its discovery by R. Cammas, on 18 June 1949, in a small cavity uncovered by the exploitation of a quarry in the Montmaurin limestone massif, south-west of Toulouse and in the context of the Pyrenean piedmont. H.-V. Vallois and G. Billy had highlighted the archaic characters of this fossil [1] which we have re-examined, considering an increased fossil record since the 1970s and analysing the internal dental features now accessible [2-3]. On the basis of the faunal remains and lithic tools collected, Cammas [4] argued an in situ position of this material and a stratigraphy of the infilling composed by 3 main levels (B-C1-C3), with the mandible and three other human remains from the deepest level (C3). Later, based on biochronology of the mammals, an attribution to marine isotopic stage 7 (i.e., between 250 and 190 ka) was proposed [5]. However, the history of the deposits is complex and the possibility of archaeological material in a secondary position is not excluded. It could indeed be the result of the extraction of elements from the upper karst level situated at 40m high overlying the LN chimney 12m. To test this hypothesis, as part of an ongoing multi-disciplinary project, we carried out a pit at LN, through the spoil from the old excavations, to reach the clay level in situ, about 1.40m below the level of the mandible. This level has been dated by the cosmogenic nuclide method applied on a quartzite flake. In addition, dates were obtained for levels C3 and C1 using ESR/U-series on herbivorous teeth. In parallel, the geological processes that could explain the history of this infilling were clarified by analysis of the clay minerals. All these results are discussed here in an attempt to constrain the chronological interval of the C3 level bearing the human remains. It should be remembered that the mandible combines archaic features such as a marked planum alveolare, downward located fossae digastrica, a sub-parallel mylohyoid line, a deep pterygoid fossa or a regular gonion profile with some neandertal traits like a well- marked fovea anterior and a mid-trigonid crest on M1, M2, M3. As a result, it seems that the Montmaurin-LN mandible is not fully neandertal. An earlier dating than the MIS 7 as previously proposed would have been consistent with its primitive state. If a more recent dating is confirmed, it should be considered that this famous fossil represents a primitive specimen at a time of the emergence of the Neandertal lineage. This may correspond to the coexistence of two or more populations during the late Middle Pleistocene in Europe, one being more primitive than the others. Acknowledgements to the French Ministry of Culture (DRAC
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hal-04300190 , version 1 (23-11-2023)


  • HAL Id : hal-04300190 , version 1


A.-E. Lebatard, Christophe Falguères, Olivier Tombret, Jean-Jacques Bahain, Thibaud Saos, et al.. How old is the Montmaurin-La Niche hominin mandible in the Middle Pleistocene? A state of the question. ESHE. ESHE 2022, Sep 2022, Tübingen, Germany. 12th Annual Meeting of the European Society for the Study of Human Evolution, 2022, p. 102, 12, pp.102, 2022. ⟨hal-04300190⟩
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