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Blog científico

Publicado el 05 de October de 2012 por Antonio José Mencía

Miguelón and his tribe

Occasionally, when one has time, one gets a passion for order, perhaps forgotten during some work frenzy. While one's busy performing these tasks, one discovers pictures that fill one with memories, which are still stored in folders or boxes, as in American movies. Some are from the family album, other from the professional one. The latter included a picture of Oviedo's Uria Street I share with the three co-directors of the Atapuerca site. It has been fifteen years now since then, a day before Emiliano Aguirre received the Prince of Asturias Award on behalf of the entire research team. Arsuaga, Bermudez and Carbonell, the ABC of our science, were there at the Campoamor Theatre. Arsuaga, Bermúdez y Carbonell. Five years before the award, in the summer of 2002, they had found one of the best preserved skulls in the global fossil record, the number 5 of the Sima de los Huesos. That same year, Miguel Induráin won his first Giro and his second Tour. Our archaeologists, who are cycling fans, were taking advantage of the brief siesta period to watch the deeds of the king of this sport before returning to the lab. And as fossils also have legendary names, the skull became Miguelón and we've lived with him for 20 years. In 2004, in the Gran Dolina, the discovery of teeth prompted speculation about fossils of a new species, the antecessor, which means explorers, precisely the title of the book Bermudez de Castro had just published. Just by reading it, you can enter the exciting adventure of history, in both a fun and scientific way, experiences which are not, of course, mutually exclusive.


You get a thorough knowledge of the key findings at the Sierra de Atapuerca, interspersed with amusing anecdotes (the Millennium Falcon was the name of Carbonell's old Land Rover which allowed palaeontologists to go up the Sierra) along with scientific data. Miguelón has accompanied me in my work as a journalist over the last four decades, sometimes very closely, other times from afar, with another king, the king of rock, and his pelvis, Elvis; in tribute to a singer on the 35th anniversary of his death. With them, the Excalibur biface. All together making ​​up three of the most important parts found in this site in Burgos. The originals are exhibited exceptionally at the Museum of Human Evolution. Miguelón is a symbol, almost a brand, and why not?! At some point he might be chosen as the best ambassador for the city of Burgos. His name has travelled the world and now he's even surfing the net with some success on social networks and at the following blog Fossils of his race, thousands, found in the Sima de los Huesos, which have been labelled as Homo heidelbergensis, could even belong to a lineage other than that from which Neanderthals originated in the Upper Pleistocene, according to recent studies. Even after two decades, this would add yet more importance to this discovery. Both Bermúdez de Castro and María Martinón have come to these conclusions after a detailed study of more than 500 fossil teeth found in the Sima de los Huesos carried out by them and their colleagues at the Dental Anthropology Group. Their study was endorsed by the Journal of Human Evolution.


It is characteristic of the work developed in Atapuerca down the years that it has been accredited by the most prestigious scientific journals in the world. But studies on the ancestry of heidelbergensis are multiplying. The latest proves that our Miguelón often spoke a language perhaps a human could understand now. Ignacio Martínez knows much about this subject, while Ana Gracia is an expert in the diseases of our ancestors. Both are part of the team with whom Juan Luis Arsuaga descends everyday into the intricate territory of the Sima de los Huesos. For those who live in the same territory where these exceptional findings are located, the abundance of information may have made them undervalue the findings, thinking that it's no big deal and that it's all part of a marketing campaign. But I can assure you, because I have seen it, that if those responsible for the Museum of Natural History in New York had some of the antecessor or heidelbergensis fossils shown at the MEH, they would show them in their most valuable display cases, as jewels. And this is how it can be seen at the museum in Burgos. And if at any European site they had discovered just five percent of what we've found in Atapuerca, they would be more than happy for the rest of their days. But don't mistake Miguelón, we can also learn from him. His species was not cannibal like their ancestors. His species had solidarity with its fellowman. Benjamina's, Elvis's or his own story shows that they survived quite bruised and with a serious infection for several years. This indicates that they were helped by others so they wouldn't die. Some have dubbed this tribe as the first NGO in history. They pointed the way for us more than half a million years ago.