The Cro Magnon

History of the Cro Magnon


Cro-Magnons are recognized as the earliest known race of modern humans, Homo sapiens. Generally considered the earliest European descendants, Cro-Magnons lived between 10,000 and 35,000 years ago. The first Cro-Magnon specimens were discovered in Les Eyzies de Tayac – Dordogne –¬†France in 1868 along with many sophisticated tools, artifacts and cave paintings. Cro-Magnons are credited with creating the first calendar nearly 34,000 years ago


The Discovery of the Cro Magnon in Les Eyzies

During construction for a railroad in 1868, a rock shelter in a limestone cliff was uncovered. Near the back of the shelter, an occupation floor was recognized, and when excavated, it revealed the remains of four adult skeletons, one infant, and some fragmentary bones. The condition and placement of ornaments, including pieces of shell and animal tooth in what appears to have been pendants or necklaces, led the researchers to think that the skeletons were intentionally buried in a single grave in the shelter.

Cro-Magnon 1 preserved the skeleton of an adult male. The individual was probably middle-aged (less than 50 years old) at his death on the basis of the pattern of closure of cranial sutures. The bones in his face are noticeably pitted (see top photograph) from a fungal infection. The skull was complete except for the teeth, which are reconstructed in the cast photographed here.

While the Cro-Magnon remains are representative of the earliest anatomically modern human beings to appear in western Europe, this population was not the earliest anatomically modern humans to evolve. The skull of Cro-Magnon 1 does, however, show the traits that are unique to modern humans, including the high rounded cranial vault with a near vertical forehead. The orbits are no longer topped by a large browridge. There is no prominent prognathism of the face.

Analysis of the pathology of the skeletons found at the Les Eyzies rock shelter indicates that the humans of this time period led a physically tough life. In addition to the infection noted above, several of the individuals found at the shelter had fused vertebrae in their necks indicating traumatic injury, and the adult female found at the shelter had survived for some time with a skull fracture. The survival of the individuals with such ailments is indicative of community support of individuals, which allowed them to convalesce.

Associated tools and fragments of fossil animal bone date the site to the uppermost Pleistocene, probably between 32,000 and 30,000 years old.