Ceprano Man, Argil, and Ceprano Calvarium, refers to a Middle Pleistocene archaic human fossil, a single skull cap (calvaria), accidentally unearthed in a highway construction project in 1994 near Ceprano in the province of Frosinone, Italy. Although damaged by a bulldozer it was recognized, documented and described by archeologist Italo Biddittu, who happened to be present when the fossil came to light. and Mallegni et al. (2003) proposed the introduction of a new human species, dubbed Homo cepranensis, based on the fossil. although other paleontologists have classified it as belonging to Homo heidelbergensis. Mounier et al. (2011) have identified the fossil as "an appropriate ancestral stock" of H. heidelbergensis, "preceding the appearance of regional autapomorphic features".
Mallegni et al., 2003
The holotype (see image) of Homo cepranenis has a unique combination of morphological features: 1: incomplete sulcus supraorbitalis, 2: frontal tuber weakly developed medially shifted, 3: supraorbital region medially concave, 4: intermediate position of the external auditory meatus in regard to the processus zygomaticus temporalis); 5 and 6 (blue) = more derived traits (i.e. 5: straight torus occipitalis transversus, 6: medio-lateral concavity of the articular tubercle); 7 to 10 (green) = more primitive traits (i.e. 7: petro-tympanic crest orientated downward, 8: opisthocranion coincident with inion, 9: processus retromastoideus, 10: torus angularis parietalis.
The fossil was first estimated to be between 690,000 to 900,000 years old determined on the basis of regional correlations and a series of absolute dates. Taking the circumstances of the recovery of the fossil into account A. Ascenzi (2001) stated: "...given the absence in the sediments containing the cranium of any leucitic remnants of the more recent volcanic activity known in the region—that are referred to the range between 100 and 700 ka and the presence above the cranium itself of a clear stratigraphic unconformity that marks the lowest limit of the sandy leucitic pyroclasts, an age between 800 and 900 ka is at present our best chronological estimate.[sic]" After clarification of its geostratigraphic, biostratigraphic and archaeological relation to the well known and nearby Acheulean site of Fontana Ranuccio, dated to 487±6 ka, Muttoni et al. (2009) suggested that Ceprano is most likely about 450,000 years old - the mid of the Middle Pleistocene.
The cranial features on the bone seem to be intermediate between those found on Homo erectus and those of later species, such as Homo heidelbergensis, that dominated Europe long before Homo neanderthalensis. A 2011 study suggested that it was ancestral to Homo neanderthalensis.
Features 1 to 4 (black) traits that are more exclusive of Mid-Pleistocene specimens, i.e.
- 1: incomplete sulcus supraorbitalis,
- 2: frontal tuber weakly developed medially shifted,
- 3: supraorbital region medially concave,
- 4: intermediate position of the external auditory meatus in regard to the processus zygomaticus temporalis;
Features 5 and 6 (blue) = more derived traits, i.e.
- 5: straight torus occipitalis transversus,
- 6: medio-lateral concavity of the articular tubercle;
Features 7 to 10 (green) = more primitive traits, i.e.
- 7: petro-tympanic crest orientated downward,
- 8: opisthocranion coincident with inion,
- 9: processus retromastoideus, 10: torus angularis parietalis.
- Manzi, G; Mallegni, F; Ascenzi, A (August 2001). "A cranium for the earliest Europeans: Phylogenetic position of the hominid from Ceprano, Italy". Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 98 (17): 10011–6. Bibcode:2001PNAS...9810011M. doi:10.1073/pnas.151259998. PMC 55569. PMID 11504953.
- Aloisi, Massimiliano (2000). The Origin of Humankind: Conference Proceedings of the International edited by Massimiliano Aloisi. ISBN 9781586030308. Retrieved December 10, 2015.
- "THE ARGIL, THE OLDEST MAN IN EUROPE". nostra italia. Retrieved December 10, 2015.
- Mallegni, F (2003). "Homo cepranensis sp. nov. and the evolution of African-European Middle Pleistocene hominids". Comptes Rendus Palevol. 2 (2): 153–159. doi:10.1016/S1631-0683(03)00015-0. ISSN 1631-0683.
- Mounier, Aurélien; Condemi, Silvana; Manzi, Giorgio (April 20, 2011). "The Stem Species of Our Species: A Place for the Archaic Human Cranium from Ceprano, Italy". PLOS ONE. 6 (4): e18821. Bibcode:2011PLoSO...618821M. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0018821. PMC 3080388. PMID 21533096. "The result of this peculiar morphology is that Ceprano clusters in our analysis with other European, African and Asian Mid-Pleistocene specimens – such as Petralona, Dali, Kabwe, Jinniu Shan, Steinheim, and SH5 – furnishing a rather plesiomorphic phenetic link among them. On the basis of this morphological affinity, it seems appropriate to group Ceprano with these fossils, and consider them as a single taxon. The available nomen for this putative species is H. heidelbergensis, whose distinctiveness stands on the retention of a number of archaic traits combined with features that are more derived and independent from any Neandertal ancestry. [...] This result would suggest that H. ergaster survived as a distinct species until 1 Ma, and would discard the validity of the species H. cepranensis, which was based on the claimed affinities between Daka and Ceprano that we did not observe. ...the mandible AT-888 associated with the SH5 cranium from Atapuerca has been shown to share affinities with the holotype of H. heidelbergensis: the Mauer mandible. Thus we can include the so-called “Ante-Neandertals” from Europe in the same taxonomical unit with other Mid-Pleistocene samples from Africa and continental Asia. Combining the results of the two approaches of our phenetic analysis, Ceprano should be reasonably accommodated as part of a Mid-Pleistocene human taxon H. heidelbergensis, which would include European, African, and Asian specimens. Moreover, the combination of archaic and derived features exhibited by the Italian specimen represents a “node” connecting the different poles of such a polymorphic humanity."
- Manzi, Giorgio; Condemi, Silvana; Mounier, Aurélien (2011-04-20). "The Stem Species of Our Species: A Place for the Archaic Human Cranium from Ceprano, Italy". PLOS ONE. 6 (4): e18821. Bibcode:2011PLoSO...618821M. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0018821. ISSN 1932-6203. PMC 3080388. PMID 21533096.
- Mallegni, Francesco; Carnieri, Emiliano; Bisconti, Michelangelo; Tartarelli, Giandonato; Ricci, Stefano; Biddittu, Italo; Segre, Aldo (March 2003). "Homo cepranensis sp. nov. and the evolution of African-European Middle Pleistocene hominids". Comptes Rendus Palevol. 2 (2): 153–159. doi:10.1016/s1631-0683(03)00015-0. ISSN 1631-0683.
- Muttoni, Giovanni; Scardia, Giancarlo; Kent, Dennis V.; Swisher, Carl C.; Manzi, Giorgio (2009). "Pleistocene magnetochronology of early hominin sites at Ceprano and Fontana Ranuccio, Italy". Earth and Planetary Science Letters. 286 (1–2): 255–268. Bibcode:2009E&PSL.286..255M. doi:10.1016/j.epsl.2009.06.032.
- "Ceprano calvaria". tumblr. Retrieved December 10, 2015.
- Manzi, Giorgio; Condemi, Silvana; Mounier, Aurélien (20 April 2011). "The Stem Species of Our Species: A Place for the Archaic Human Cranium from Ceprano, Italy". PLOS ONE. 6 (4): e18821. Bibcode:2011PLoSO...618821M. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0018821. PMC 3080388. PMID 21533096.