By Wendy Williams
SPANISH researchers have come under fire for incorrectly dating the world’s biggest haul of human fossils by a staggering 200,000 years.
Britain’s leading expert on evolution, Professor Chris Stringer, slammed the team in charge of a find at Atapuerca cave, near Burgos.
He claims the site, known as La Sima de los Huesos – the ‘Pit of Bones’ – is actually filled with 400,000-year-old Neanderthal remains and not a 600,000-year-old species called Homo heidelbergensis.
Writing in the journal Evolutionary Anthropology, the professor from the Natural History Museum, said: “The Atapuerca finds are hugely important.
“There is no other site like it in terms of numbers of bones and skulls of our ancient predecessors and the team there has done a magnificent job in excavating the site.
“However, if we cannot correctly fix the age and identity of the remains then we are in trouble,” he added.
“The problem is that many of the skeletons unearthed at La Sima clearly have Neanderthal features.
“But all other evidence indicated Neanderthals did not appear on the scene for another 200,000 years.
“Dating these bones to such an early date completely distorts our picture of our evolution.”
La Sima de los Huesos was discovered by potholers exploring Atapuerca’s UNESCO-protected cavern system and excavations began in 1990.