A modern human humerus from the early aurignacian of Vogelherdhöhle (Stetten, Germany).
Implicit in much of the discussion of the cultural and population biological dynamics of modern human origins in Europe is the assumption that the Aurignacian, from its very start, was made by fully modern humans. The veracity of this assumption has been challenged in recent years by the association of Neandertal skeletal remains with a possibly Aurignacian assemblage at Vindija Cave (Croatia) and the association of Neandertals with distinctly Upper Paleolithic (but non-Aurignacian) assemblages at Arcy-sur-Cure and St. C¿esaire (France). Ideally we need human fossil material that can be confidently assigned to the early Aurignacian to resolve this issue, yet in reality there is a paucity of well-provenanced human fossils from early Upper Paleolithic contexts. One specimen, a right humerus from the site of Vogelherd (Germany), has been argued, based on its size, robusticity, and muscularity, to possibly represent a Neandertal in an Aurignacian context. The morphological affinities of the Vogelherd humerus were explored by univariate and multivariate comparisons of humeral epiphyseal and diaphyseal shape and strength measures relative to humeri of Neandertals and Early Upper Paleolithic (later Aurignacian and Gravettian) modern humans. On the basis of diaphyseal cross-sectional geometry, deltoid tuberosity morphology, and distal epiphyseal morphology, the specimen falls clearly and consistently with European early modern humans and not with Neandertals. Along with the other Vogelherd human remains, the Vogelherd humerus represents an unequivocal association between the Aurignacian and modern human morphology in Europe.
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