The human postcranial remains from Mladeč

Erik Trinkaus, Fred H. Smith, Trenton C. Stockton, Laura L. Shackelford

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


The paleontological analysis of Late Pleistocene human postcranial remains from Europe has highlighted a series of changes in morphology associated with the emergence of modern humans and the eventual replacement of a late archaic human (specifically Neandertal) morphological pattern with one of robust early modern humans. This has involved aspects of body proportions (Trinkaus, 1981; Holliday, 1997; 2005a), upper limb diaphyseal strength and muscularity (Trinkaus, 1983; 1997; 2000; 2005a; Churchill, 1994), lower limb diaphyseal shape (especially femoral) (Trinkaus, 1976; 2005b; Trinkaus et al., 1999a), and vertebral spinous process robusticity (Matiegka, 1938; Heim, 1976; Trinkaus, 1983). Other aspects of lower limb robusticity, such as diaphyseal robusticity, articular hypertrophy, knee moment arms and femoral curvature, largely disappear once appropriately analyzed and/or scaled to body mass and limb length (Trinkaus et al., 1999a, b; 2005b; Trinkaus and Rhoads, 1999; Trinkaus, 2000; Shackelford and Trinkaus, 2002). Despite these observations, it is also apparent that most of the postcranial comparisons are between Middle Paleolithic Neandertals and earlier Upper Paleolithic modern humans dating to ≤ 28 kyr BP (Gravettian sensu lato). The rare exceptions to this are the Chatelperronian Saint Cesaire Neandertal partial skeleton (Vandermeesch, 1984; Trinkaus et al., 1999a), the Fontana Nuova 4 talus (Chilardi et al., 1996), isolated phalanges from Brassempouy (Henry-Gambier et al., 2004), and the collection of human remains from Mladeč Cave. Indeed, although distinctive Neandertal remains have been dated to ca. 30 kyr BP in at least southwestern Europe (Hublin et al., 1995), diagnostic and well-dated early modern human remains ≥ 30 kyr BP in Europe are poorly known. Indeed, only the remains from the Pestera Muierii (Nicolǎescu-Plopşor, 1968), the teeth and phalanges from Brassempouy (Henry-Gambier et al., 2004), and the craniofacial remains from the Pestera cu Oase (Trinkaus et al., 2003a, b; 2005) provide secure paleontological information on modern humans ≥ 30 kyr BP in Europe, and all of them except for an incomplete scapula and fibula from the Pestera Muierii and phalanges from Brassempouy are cephalic. The remainder of the European early modern human remains are immature mandibles, isolated teeth and/or insecurely dated to this time period. The only other human limb bone which has been considered in this sample, the Vogelherd 3 humerus (Churchill and Smith, 2000), is now known to be Holocene in age (Conard et al., 2004). Similarly, the Cro-Magnon and La Rochette human remains (including postcrania) are now dated to the succeeding Gravettian of Western Europe (Orschiedt, 2003; Henry-Gambier, 2003). As a result, the key sample of early modern human postcrania for providing current information on the postcranial morphology of the earliest European modern humans are the disassociated human axial and limb remains from Mladeč. Incompletely described (Szombathy, 1925) and only partially integrated into appropriate analyses (e.g., Wolpoff, 1989; Liston et al., 1989; Churchill, 1994; Chilardi et al., 1996; Stockton, 1997; Trinkaus, 2005a, b), the postcranial remains from the karstic cave system at Mladeč appear to represent the oldest currently known sample (as opposed to isolated elements) of early modern humans limbs in Europe. Directly associated with early modern human craniofacial remains, these postcrania provide important information on the early modern human biology in Europe. We therefore provide here a detailed description and assessment of these elements.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationEarly Modern Humans at the Moravian Gate
Subtitle of host publicationThe Mladeč Caves and their Remains
Number of pages61
ISBN (Print)3211235884, 9783211235881
StatePublished - 2006
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Sciences(all)
  • Arts and Humanities(all)


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