At present, the codirector of the Atapuerca project, José Maria Bermûdez de Castro Risueno (1952—), is one of the two most outstanding Spanish paleoanthropologists. Research professor at National Museum of Natural Sciences in Madrid, Bermûdez de Castro has been a member of the research team of Atapuerca site since 1982, when Emiliano Aguirre organized a multidisciplinary group to study this hominid site. Since 1991, he has been codirector of the Atapuerca research team that was awarded in 1997 with the Principe of Asturias prize, which is the most important scientific research award in the Hispanic world. Furthermore, Bermûdez de Castro became Member of Real Academia de Medicina y Cirugia de Galicia.
Bermûdez de Castro is very well-known by his research of the human remains from Trinchera Dolina excavations at Atapuerca site. In 1994, several human fossils were discovered: a handful of upper and lower teeth, a large cranial fragment, and a mandible with a molar wisdom tooth in the process of erupting. Furthermore, 36 human fragments were recovered of at least six individuals dated of 780,000 years ago. In 1997, a new human species was defined: Homo antecessor, which is considered the species that discovered Europe. These findings allowed him and his colleagues to publish many papers in the most prestigious scientific journals.
In the field of anthropology, Bermûdez de Castro is a specialist in dental morphology, systematic and phylogeny of hominids, growth and development, paleoethology, sexual dimorphism, paleodemography, paleopathology, and sociobiology. His new species Homo antecessor is a key “missing link” in the hominids evolution and allowed him to propose a new phylogeny for the last 2 million years. Apart from his main research in Atapuerca, he is also excavating in the Late Pleistocene site of Pinilla del Valle (Madrid).
Bermûdez de Castro’s book El chico de la Gran Dolina: En los origenes de lo humano (The Boy of the Great Dolina: In the Origins of the Human) (2002) is very well-known in Spain. This book constitutes an excellent popularization of his findings in the Atapuerca site, a firsthand chronicle of the Homo antecessor discovery, and an exhaustive explanation of many details of his proposal regarding the origin and evolution of the hominids.
- Bermudez de Castro, J. M., Arsuaga, J. L., Carbonell, E., Rosas, A., Martinez, I., & Mosquera, M. (1997). A hominid from the Lower Pleistocene of Atapuerca, Spain: Possible ancestor to Neandertals and modern humans. Science, 276, 1392-1395.
- Carbonell, E., Bermudez de Castro, J. M., Arsuaga, J. L., Diez, J. C., Rosas, A., Cuenca-Bescos, G., et al. (1995). Lower Pleistocene hominids and artifacts from Atapuerca-TD6 (Spain). Science, 269, 826-830.
- Fernandez-Jalvo, Y., Diez, J. C., Bermudez de Castro, J. M., Carbonell, E., & Arsuaga, J. L. (1996). Evidence of early cannibalism. Science, 271,277-278.