Where and when did the first settlers entered Europe?

 Philip Van Doren Stern, Prehistoric Europe: From Stone Age Man to the Early Greeks (W. W. Norton & Company, Inc.: New York),

p. 49:  At its maximum, the great ice sheet covering northern Europe and most of the British Isles was two miles thick.  It extended over all of Scandinavia, the Baltic Sea, and far into Germany (below Berlin) and Russia (beyond Moscow).  Separate, less extensive glaciers covered the Alps, the Pyrenees, the Cevennes, and other high mountain areas.  (p. 50):  Still unanswered is the question of where and when the first settlers entered Europe.

F. Clark Howell (1960:  “European And Northwest African Middle Pleistocene Hominids,” Current Anthropology, May, 1960, P. 51:

“believes that there was a primary dispersal of hominids from Africa to Asia and that the Mediterranean was greatly enlarged, and the otherwise narrow water-gaps or potential land bridges during the later regressive stages of glaciation) in the western (Gibralter) and northeastern Bosporus, Dardanelles) reaches of the Basin were submerged.  (Howell: 1960: P. 51):

Spain – 300,000 Years Ago:

“Fairly early evidence that men had been in spain was found in 1961-1963 by Howell.  Excavations He Directed At Torralba And Ambrona Yielded Artifacts Made By Elephant Hunters Who Lived There About 300,000 Years Ago.  Unfortunately There Were No Human Remains.  But There Were Many Hand-Axes And Some Bits Of Charred Wood Which Showed That These Ancient Men Had Used Fire To Drive Their Prey Into A Swamp Where It Would Be Trapped In The Soft Mud.

Chester S. Chard, writing three years later (1963:   “Implications Of Early Human Migrations From Africa To Europe,” Man, August, London, 1963, P. 124:

“Concluded that the Straits Of Gibralter were the best possibility for being “the gateway toEurope for the hand-axe people of the Lower Paleolithic.  and it follows that we may expect eventually to find the oldest traces of European Man on Spanish soil.”

Southern France: 

“Fire was also used at a much earlier site, the Escale Cave (Saint-Esteve-Janson) in the Durrance Valley In southern France, where “at least five hearths with reddened areas up to a meter in diameter and fire-cracked stones, and traces of ash and charcoals, have been encountered.”  So says Howell (1966:  “Observations on the Earlier Phases Of The European Lower Paleolithic,” American Anthropologist, April, 1966, p. 109).  The site shows every promise of being one of the very most important ever discovered in the Lower Pleistocene in Europe.”

750,000 Years Ago: Southern France – 1960:

(Howell: 1960: p. 51):  “It is important because it may be the oldest known site in Europe with definite proof of human occupation.  Men lived there perhaps as long as 750,000 Years Ago.  It was discovered by Mme. Marie-Francoise Bonifay and Eugene Bonifay in 1960.  Their report on it, presented in Paris In 1963 (p. 1136) to The Academie Des Sciences, says that the cave contained many extinct animal bones, some of them dating back to a very early period.

p. 51:  There are other very early sites in France.  the Vallonnet Cave near Roquebrune was found in 1958.  And during that year a deep municipal excavation at Montieres (Near Amiens) uncovered worked flints accompanied by the bones [p. 52] of a long-extinct ancestor of the horse, Equus stenonis which roamed Europe during the earliest Pleistocene

500,000 years ago:

(F. Clark Howell In American Anthropologist, April 1966, p. 91):

There are still more very early sites, some near Amiens in the valley of The Somme, some in England along the lower Thames.  It must be remembered that the english channel did not yet exist, and the British Isles were connected to Europe.  So far none of these very early European sites has yielded even a scrap of human bone.  stone tools and evidence of fire exist, but nothing remains of the men who opened up the continent.  This is not as strange as it may seem.  these first Europeans did not bury their dead, so their bodies were torn apart by wild animals and consumed by insects.  Bones scattered in the open do not last long; they have to be protected in alkaline soil to endure.  and there were very few people then in Europe to leave remains.  It is therefore not surprising that no human fossils have been found for the period before 500,000 years ago.

Germany – Homo erectus – 500,000 Years Ago:

“The oldest one yet discovered is somewhat of a mystery.  this is the famous Heidelberg Man, who has long been known, for he was brought to light on October 21, 1907.  Unfortunatly, all that was recovered was a lower jaw, complete with teeth, that was dug out of the 78-foot level of a commercial sand pit in the Neckar River, a few miles southeast of Heidelberg, Germany.  Since the find came from the Mauer sands, it is called the “Mauer Mandible.” 


It is a mystery because it does not fit into the expected order of European fossil men.  Associated with it were bones of elephants, rhinoceroses, and other animals that have long been extinct in Europe.  These made it possible to date the mandible–roughly–by association.  The date generally agreed upon is approximately 500,000 years ago.  This means that Heidelberg Man could have been a representative of the species Homo Erectus.  Perhaps he was, but his jawbone is unusually large, and it has several curious discrepancies, the chief of which is the fact that its teeth are fairly small and well advanced (manlike), while its receding chin and very wide rami are more apelike. 

“There has been much dispute about it ever since it was found.  [p. 53] as late as 1965 (p. 258) C. L. Brace and Ashley Montagu still felt “fairly confident in assigning the Heidelberg jaw to the pithecanthropine (Homo erectus) stage.

“Others do not agree with them.  writing in 1959 (p. 178), William W. Howells said (Mankind In The Making, New York) that ‘Heidelberg “cannot be classed with those early and primitive euhominids of the far east, Java and Peking Man.’  In The May 1960 issue of Current Anthropology (p. 212 f.) F. Clark Howell re-examined the Mauer (Heidelberg) Mandible and agreed that its teeth and bone structure have “fundamental differences” from those of Java And Peking Man and then suggested that it may belong to the same ancestral lineage as “Montmaurin man” and the first “Neandertals.”   In 1963 Ernst Mayr put it with Java And Peking Man.  and then in 1964, Bernard G. Campbell stated that nothing about it warrants its being classified as Homo erectus or placing it in a “subspecific category of its own.”  Thus this earliest European Man is still very much of an enigma.”

Carleton S. Coon, writing In 1962 (p. 492:  The Origin Of Races, New York) said:  “Because there is no Mauer Cranium we do not know to which species, Homo erectus or Homo Sapiens, Heidelberg Man belonged.  Both the teeth and the narrow intercondylar width fit a higher grade than the other features of the bone itself, and both the jaw and its teeth fail to fit into the pattern of any of the other four lines of human evolution seen elsewhere in the world.  Mauer therefore stands at the base of a line of its own.”



About Harold L Carter

Bachelor of Science, Columbia University Masters degree, Ohio State University Undergraduate National Officer, Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Eastern Asst Vice President, when a student at Columbia University Profile Photograph: Mom & Me, when I was a graduate student
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