To the editorial board of “Nature”


Regarding the Boxgrove excavating site (Roberts et al., 1994), the Anthropological Association of Greece wishes to submit to your journal the following letter:




Our Association is very pleased about the Boxgrove finds, recently announced by Roberts et al. (1994), because by this British discovery a step closer has been made towards the A. Poulianos (1968, 1971, 1982) documented theory that Europe was populated by autochthonous hominids for more than 0.5 m.y.a.

Some remarks however, based on our experience at the Petralona cave excavations, have to be considered, in order to avoid any underestimating, especially what concerns chronology.

The presence at Boxgrove of an archaic vole, of the Mimomys savini - Arvicola evolutionary line, found in association with a human tibia, is for the moment the best evidence of the antiquity of the site. In our opinion it can not be a Mimomys savini, because this form became extinct a little before 0.73 m.y.a. (see, Koenigswald, 1973). Also, it lived in very cold (tundral) climatic conditions along with L. (Eolagurus) argyropuloi in Siberia (see, Zazhighin, 1980) and it has been found in the lower layers of the Tarko cave in Hungary (Janossy, 1986). The Eolagurus presence in the lower layers of the Petralona cave showed that analogous cold conditions prevailed in the northern Helladic areas and it is the main reason why humans could not expand to the North. Therefore, the post Brunhes/Matuyama Boxgrove water vole can only belong to the Arvicola genus, which appeared about 0.7-0.65 m.y.a. (see, N. Poulianos, 1988, 1989, discussion on the topic). This last age, proved for Isernia (Coltorti et al., 1982), Mauer (Koci et al., 1973), Upper Stranska Scala (Musil ed., 1972, Kukla, 1975) and Middle - Upper Petralona (cf. above), is the maximum chronology for Boxgrove too. The uncertainity left by Roberts et al. (1994) concerning Arvicola terrestris cantiana (?), leaves an open possibility of a minimum age for Boxgrove of about 300-400.000 years. However, this again is not acceptable if Stephanorhinus hundsheimensis (sensu Fortelius et al., 1993) was present. The latter appeared circa 0.65 m.y.a. and disappeared at most 0.55 m.y.a. (i.e. during the mid-upper Petralona cave layers formation, N. Poulianos in press), and before the appearance of the true Stephanorhinus hemitoechus, found p. ex. at Tautavel (see Moigne, 1983) at the age of about 0.45 m.y.a. (Yokoyama, 1987).

While waiting for more data from Boxgrove, the above findings, in our point of view, belong to a previous to the 13th Oxygen-18 isotope warm stage (i.e. the 15th and perhaps the 17th), and indirectly reconfirm our hypothesis (based on the evidence of the mid-lower Petralona cave layers), that in post-Matuyama periods, before humans reached the rest of the continent, they most probably spread from the S E of Europe.


Athens, 4 July 1994

Yours faithfully

Dr. Nickos A. Poulianos




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