The Atapuerca sites (Burgos, Spain) have become a reference place to explore the evolution and palaeocology of the hominins that inhabited Europe during the Pleistocene. Among the ground-breaking discoveries from these localities, the finding of over 150 human fossils assigned to a new hominin species, H. antecessor, dated to ca. 860 ka represents a change of paradigm in our understanding of the first hominin settlement of the continent. Recently, the recovery and analysis of H. antecessor proteins has opened a new venue of research in palaeoanthropology. The dental proteome of H. antecessor has helped to refine the phylogenetic assessment of this species, reinforcing the proposal of its close relationship with the origins of modern humans, Neanderthals and Denisovans. This PhD project aims to study the proteome of the emblematic cave bear lineage by analysin the species represented at the Early (Ursus dolinensis), Middle (U. deningeri) and Late Pleistocene (U. spelaeus) sites from Atapuerca and compare them to other ursids from Europe. The Atapuerca cave bears have been recovered from the same levels where human presence (hominins and/or lithics) was documented such as Sima del Elefante (ca. 1.2 Ma), Gran Dolina (ca. 860 ka) and Sima de los Huesos and Galería (ca. 400 ka). If the analysis of the Ursus paleoproteins proves successful, the project will extend its scope to the hominin groups and investigate the taxonomy and phylogeny of other Eurasian Pleistocene hominins.
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