Among other research topics, the interest of the Anthropological Association of Greece is focused to the Eurasian palaeoanthropological data available for the beginning of the Lower -Middle Pleistocene (600.000-700.000 years). Such evidence came from an excavation proceeded in S. England at Boxgrove. These data compared to those from Petralona cave were published in Anthropos, 1997 v. 13 (first presented as a poster communication to the 10th Congress of the European Anthropological Association, Brussels, August 1996).


By Nickos Α. Poulianos


Since 1994 a tibia and other two human teeth, presumably belonging to Homo heidelbergensis, have been found at the Boxgrove excavating site. The British excavators claimed to be of about 0.48 m.y. and corresponding to the 13th Oxygen-18 isotope warm stage estimated them. This conclusion was mainly based on the discovery in the strata of the site and in association to the human remains of two fossil taxa: Mimomys savini and Stephanorhinus  hundsheimensis. The following remarks of the author of the present paper may be considered as a different and perhaps helpful view on the issue. Mimomys savini is a water vole which disappeared by the end of Lower Pleistocene, i.e. it did not survive after the Brunhes/Matuyama palaeomagnetic reversal of 0.73 m.y. Therefore, this vole may only belong to the evolutionary successor of Mimomys savini, which is Arvicola cantiana, whose fossils have been found in association with Stephanorhinus hundsheimensis in various excavating sites, such as Isernia, Mauer, Stranska Skala and Petralona. From the Greek site it was clarified that Stephanorhinus hundsheimensis appeared at about 0.65 m.y.a. and disappeared at 0.55 m.y.a., while Arvicola cantiana disappeared at about 0.6 m.y.a. Therefore, the age of 0.6-0.65 m.y. must be the most probable age of the Boxgrove man, as well as of the above prehistoric European sites (see map).

The idea of the above abstract originated since 1994, when the Boxgrove palaeoanthropological excavations where first announced in ”Nature” on 27 May 1994. To the same scientific journal the author mailed the following remarks on 4 July 1994:

Regarding the Boxgrove excavating site (Roberts et al., 1994), the Anthr. Assoc. 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.

References      Athens, 4 July 1994             Yours faithfully, Dr. Nickos A. Poulianos

            As it may be seen in the following photocopy, the editorial office of ”Nature” was very kind in replying almost immediately (18-7-1994), showing the analogous interest.

The “Petralona - Boxgrove” letter was not finally published. The reason according to the editors of “Nature”, as the 22-8-1994 answer of the magazine proves,  was lack of space. Thus, up today, any further scientific discussion with the authors of the Boxgrove article became impossible.

In addition to the above, a detail palaeontogical description of Arvicola cantiana and Stephanorhinus hundsheimensis found at Petralona, incorporated into their Lower - Middle Pleistocene biostratigraphy, was published by the Anthropological Institute of Florence University in a special edition (“La grotta e l’uomo di Petralona” - 1995) and recently presented by the Bulletin (April 1996) of the European Anthropological Association. The Brussels poster communication contained also: a) The current Petralona faunal list (included herewith - Table 1), b) The biostratigraphic, chronological and palaeoecological picture of Petralona based on selected taxa and c) The correlation of Petralona with several Eurasian sites.

The above, represents the evidence which supports the conclusion of this presentation, that the Boxgrove site must have circa the same age with several other European Early Middle Pleistocene palaeoanthropological sites, such as Atapuerca, Isernia, Mauer and Petralona.


Today during 2006, searching in the web new data regarding the Boxgrove excavations (there was untill 2004/5 the site:, which for a copy we preserved in our page), an unusual phenomenon may be observed: the relevant information concerning absolute datings does not proceed beyond October 1997, i.e. strait after our publication in the yearbook "Anthropos". Our wonder concerns whether the latest British evidence is not published, because of the necessary bibliographic reference of our scientific contribution.