Human Evolution

, Volume 21, Issue 3–4, pp 251–259 | Cite as

Continuity and/or Discontinuity in the Pleistocene peopling of Europe?

  • Silvana CondemiEmail author


Today, a number of European fossils are known which can be dated between 500,000 and 900,000 years ago. These remains provide evidence of an early human settlement of Europe, which apparently predates the emergence of Neanderthals. However, the taxonomic attribution of these fossils and their phylogenetic relationship to each other and to Neanderthals remains unclear. Evidence for a direct phylogenetic relationship with Neanderthals or a discontinuity is not yet conclusive. The task is complicated by the fact that the emergence of the Neanderthal population was not abrupt, but progressive. It is probable that the peopling of Europe during the entire Pleistocene was unique and presented from its very origins an “endemic” (a cul-de-sac) character, which may explain that the first traces of fossils in Europe illustrate particularities in comparison those from Africa and from Asia. Further paleontological discoveries will be needed to redefine the status of these features and to improve our understanding of human evolution in Europe.


Neanderthal pre-Neanderthal Homo antecessor H. cepranensis H. heidelbergensis phylogeny 


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© Springer Science + Business Media B.V. 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Faculté de Médecine, UMR 6578 – Unité d’Anthropologie : adaptabilité biologique et culturelleCNRS/Université de la MéditerrannéeMarseille Cedex 05France

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