The absence of complete Homo sapiens remains in conjunction with Aurignacian industries have led some to raise the issue of who the originators of the Aurignacian were: modern humans or Neandertals who were present in Europe at that time. A new paper puts the isolated dental remains through a statistical analysis, and comes up with the conclusion that modern humans are very likely to have been behind the Aurignacian.
Journal of Human Evolution doi:10.1016/j.jhevol.2009.02.003
Who made the Aurignacian and other early Upper Paleolithic industries?
Shara E. Bailey et al.
The Aurignacian is typically taken as a marker of the spread of anatomically modern humans into Europe. However, human remains associated with this industry are frustratingly sparse and often limited to teeth. Some have suggested that Neandertals may, in fact, be responsible for the Aurignacian and the earliest Upper Paleolithic industries. Although dental remains are frequently considered to be taxonomically undiagnostic in this context, recent research shows that Neandertals possess a distinct dental pattern relative to anatomically modern humans. Even so, it is rare to find mandibles or maxillae that preserve all or most of their teeth; and, the probability of correctly identifying individuals represented by only a few teeth or a single tooth is unknown.
We present a Bayesian statistical approach to classifying individuals represented exclusively by teeth into two possible groups. The classification is based on dental trait frequencies and sample sizes for ‘known’ samples of 95 Neandertals and 63 Upper Paleolithic modern humans. In a cross validation test of the known samples, 89% of the Neandertals and 89% of the Upper Paleolithic modern humans were classified correctly. We then classified an ‘unknown’ sample of 52 individuals: 34 associated with Aurignacian or other (non-Châtelperronian) early Upper Paleolithic industries, 15 associated with the Châtelperronian, and three unassociated. Of the 34 early Upper Paleolithic-associated individuals, 29 were assigned to modern humans, which is well within the range expected (95% of the time 26–33) with an 11% misclassification rate for an entirely modern human sample. These results provide some of the strongest evidence that anatomically modern humans made the Aurignacian and other (non-Châtelperronian) early Upper Paleolithic industries.