João Zilhão, Department of History & Archeology, University of Barcelona, Spain | February 21, 2019 – 14h30 | CIBIO-InBIO’s Auditorium, Campus de Vairão



The partial cranium from Gruta da Aroeira sheds additional light on Middle Pleistocene Europeans. The fossil consists of a large part of the right side of the braincase, preserving a portion of the left side of the frontal squama and supraorbital torus, as well as the interorbital region, including the vertical part of the nasal bones. A fragment of the right maxilla, with two molars partially preserved, was also found attached to the calvarium but not in anatomical position. Based on the degree of synostosis of the right coronal suture, the individual was a mature adult. The preserved portions are sufficient to reconstruct most of the cranium, except for the occipital, by mirror-imaging. The bones are thick, an angular torus is present on the right parietal bone, and the thickness of the supraorbital torus and the interorbital breadth are outstanding. Securely placed in the 390-436 ka interval by U-series dating of stratigraphically associated flowstone, the fossil is the most precisely and best dated of the period. As such, it provides a temporal anchor against which to assess patterns of morphological variation in the critical period during which the average cranial capacity of humans entered the present-day range.


João Zilhão is ICREA Research Professor in Archeology at the Department of History and Archeology of the University of Barcelona (Spain). His main research interests include the Middle-to-Upper Paleolithic transition, the fate of the Neandertals and the origins of art (for a full CV, see


[Host: Catarina Ginja, Archaeogenetics]


Image credits: João Zilhão