(Chapter II, section 3)

Sapiens men of the Middle Pleistocene

The first appearance of fully or incipiently sapiens men in the Old World can now be definitely placed in the Middle Pleistocene, in Europe the time of the second, or great, interglacial. The specimen which has made this allocation possible is Swanscombe man, consisting of a parietal and the occipital bone of one individual from a glacially sealed Middle Acheulean deposit on the second terrace of the Thames Valley in England.5 These fragments are said to resemble the cranial vault of Putdown, which is also probably sapiens in the same sense, and may be of no greater antiquity.6

Other remains comparable to those from Swanscombe, and also associated with the Acheulean cultural horizon, have been found in various sites in western and southern Europe, but have so far failed to receive full scientific recognition. The best known of these is the famous Galley Hill skeleton, found in the second or hundred-foot terrace of the Thames Valley. Others include the Moulin Quignon mandible, the Clichy skeleton, and the Olmo skullcap. Of these, the most nearly complete,7 and the strongest claimant for authenticity, is the Galley Hill skeleton, unearthed in 1888.8 Although the skeleton was removed from near the bottom of an undisturbed gravel layer, by persons fully aware of the importance of its position most modern writers of the pre-Swanscombe era have refused to accept its authenticity although the chances of its being later than the gravel from which it was taken were at most extremely slight. In view of the Swanscombe evidence the Galley Hill specimen may now be granted the recognition which it has long merited.

The Galley Hill man was of short stature, about 160 cm. His long bones, which include a humerus as well as a femur and tibia, although robust, were not heavy. The length of the tibia is 77 per cent of that of the femur, and this proportion is modern and European, unlike those of many of the later peoples of the Upper Palaeolithic and Neolithic. From the muscular markings on their surfaces, it is apparent that he was a man of considerable bodily strength, but at the same time of fairly light build. The section profiles of the long bones, the positions of the condyles, and the facets, all bear witness to a life in open country, and to the habit of squatting.

The skull, which is reminiscent in a general way of some living varieties of European man, is extremely dolichocephalic, with a cranial index of 69; although warped by earth pressure, it has not changed its basic form. The length of the vault is very long, 204 mm. as reconstructed by Keith, and the breadth correspondingly narrow. The vault height, known only from the auricular projection since the basal portion of the skull is missing, is on the low side of medium. This skull has an extremely protuberant Occiput with the greatest length well to the bottom; a well-developed frontal region, and a moderately sloping forehead. At the same time the forehead is very broad, making the parietal walls nearly parallel. The browridges are of moderately strong development. The face, unfortunately, is missing in Galley Hill as in all similar specimens. Yet the temporal segment of the right zygomatic arch remains, and this, although thin, shows that the arch as a whole was well curved.

Fortunately, more than half of the mandible has been preserved, and its conformation makes it Certain that there was no prognathism. The body of this mandible is rather narrow and of only moderate symphysial height; the chin of medium prominence judged by niodern standards. The ascending ramus is wide, and the sigmoid notch shallow. The teeth, while fully human, retain some primitive features in the development of the pulp cavities, in the length-breadth proportions of the molars, and in their relative size, for the third molar is the largest.

Besides these dental peculiarities and the absence of a marked sigmoid notch, the skull itself possesses certain primitive features. It is thick, and the browridges, although no greater than in many modern examples, form a continuous ridge. The mastoids are small, and the area of temporal muscle attachment large.

Galley Hill man was, without reasonable doubt, an extremely generalized form of ancestral white man. His skull and body bones preserve just that degree of generalization needed to make him the logical ancestor of the Mediterranean race and of all the sub-races related to it.

Although more specimens of this type have so far been found in Europe than elsewhere, it is not possible to suppose that the Galley Hill type of man evolved on European soil. He must have been a transient in Europe, coming in with the retreat of one glacier, and going out again with the advance of the next. When his descendants next appear in Europe, it will be from some other source to which their ancestors had retreated.

Outside of Europe, the earliest known human anatomical specimen is the Kanam mandible from East Africa. This was attributed by its finder, Leakey,9 to the Lower Pleistocene, which would probably make it older than any of the other known fossil men of Africa, Asia, or of Europe. The Kanam mandible is definitely human; it possesses a chin and its teeth are essentially human in form, although primitive in a number of ways,10 like those of Galley Hill. It is impossible to determine with any accuracy the racial type represented by this fragment of jaw; especially since, if it possesses the age attributed to it, races in the modern sense cannot have developed very far. However, it could, like Galley Hill, have belonged without difficulty to a generalized ancestral white man, since it lacks prognathism and is modern in shape and size.

Younger than the Kanam mandible, and apparently belonging to the Middle Pleistocene, are four fragmentary skull caps found, likewise by Leakey, in East Africa at the site of Kanjera. These, like the Kanam jaw, have been subjected to the investigation of a British Committee which is not satisfied as to the exact location from which they came. However, as Hopwood has pointed out, the fossils from both the Kanam and Kanjera deposits belong to the periods which Leakey stated; namely, the Lower and Middle Pleistocene.

Despite the uncertainty of this situation, in view of their great importance, and the fact that their alleged age has not been disproved, it would be unwise to ignore these East African specimens in a theoretical reconstruction of the history of Homo sapiens. It is much more reasonable to give them full consideration and to label the sequence of reconstruction as tentative.

These four fragmentary skull caps found at Kanjera are in such poor condition that it is impossible to give accurate measurements or other details which would fully define the types which they represent. Yet enough pieces have been preserved to make a general estimate. Kanjera man was extremely dolichocephalic, with cranial indices under 70; the skull walls, although thick in three out of four cases, are not covered with heavy muscular markings, as in the case of non-sapiens types of fossil man. The foreheads are prominent; the frontal lobes of the brain well developed, as in any modern group; the whole occipital region is extremely protruding, and the occipital lobes strongly developed and very symmetrical. This fact, along with other features of the brain deduced from a study of the endocranial casts,11 leads one to the conclusion that these specimens belonged to a very long-headed form of Homo sapiens, very similar to Galley Hill, and like the latter could without difficulty have been ancestral to at least one part of the present white racial stock. One small piece of malar bone is all that remains of the faces of these four individuals. This fragment includes a well-developed canine fossa, which again is certain proof of its human character. A small piece of femur with a strongly developed pilaster is also fully human, but cannot serve to designate any single racial group.


5 Swanscombe Committee of the RAI, JRAI, vol. 68, 1938, pp. 17—98. See especially Morant, G. M., ibid., pp. 67—96.

6 It is becoming increasingly unlikely that the Putdown mandible is a part of the same specimen as the vault fragments.

7 The Clichy skeleton may be more complete, but has not been satisfactorily published.

8 Keith, Sir A., The Antiquity of Man, pp. 178—193.

9 Leakey, L. S. B., The Fossil Races of Kenya.

Adloff, P., ZFRK, vol. 3, 1936, pp. 10—26.

11 Elliot-Smith, Sir G., The Stone Age Races of Kenya, Appendix B.