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Mala Balanica
43.33, 43.33
Homo, Homo heidelbergensis

BH-1 is a hemi-mandible of a Homo heidelbergensis discovered in Mala Balanica site in 2006. Originally, the researchers were unable to assign it to a specific hominin species. The CT scanning was conducted to create a 3D image of the mandible, while the U-series method of radiometric dating was originally used to determine the jaw's age. Due to the limitation of the process, and some unusual readings, it was tentatively dated to 113,000+72,000-43,000 years, as an older specimen was never discovered in this part of Europe. This was set as the minimum age.

The mandible was excavated in the lower stratigraphic level of the cave, 1.5 m (4 ft 11 in) below the artifact bearing level, or 281 to 284 cm (111 to 112 in) of total depth. It was the first hominin specimen in the Central Balkans recovered through controlled excavations with firm stratigraphic context. The mandible is 6.7 cm (2.6 in) long and preserved from the posterior canine alveolus to the mesial aspect of the ascending ramus. All three molars are present in their sockets. The lower half of the mesiolingual root of the third molar is missing and the remaining roots are exposed due to the destruction of the adjacent endomandibular lamina. The mesial section of the mandible shows an old breakage filled with sediment, whereas all of the breaks on the distal end are fresh.

The presence of the alveolar planum (the distance from the frontmost tooth socket to the back of the jaw), and the overall robusticity indicated a non-modern morphology and primitive character states comparable with the Early Pleistocene. Despite relative geographic proximity and possible contemporaneity with the Krapina Neanderthals, the mandible does not share any observable derived Neanderthal traits. As it didn't appear to be Neanderthal, but more archaic, the mandible was originally described as belonging to the generic archaic Homo sp. The shape of the dental arcade and molar morphology placed the remains in the genus Homo, but its fragmentary nature and plesiomorphic character of its traits precluded a more precise taxonomic designation.

However, the 2013 survey which included electron spin resonance combined with uranium series isotopic analysis, and infrared/post-infrared luminescence dating, provided a minimum age between 397,000 and 525,000 years. Measurements have been conducted by the University of Bordeaux in France, and Université du Québec à Montréal in Canada. Though some results, especially of the sediments where the mandible was discovered, showed results of older periods, up to 602,000 years old (582,000 in sediments above the mandible), the researchers concluded from other facts and circumstances that this is probably not the case, settling on the lower range. The remains are now fully assigned to Homo heidelbergensis, which was later corroborated by the detailed dental survey.

Even the lower range places the Mala Balanica individual among the oldest hominin fossils in Europe. Its older estimate overlaps with Sima de los Huesos in Spain (600,000 BP± 60,000) and is slightly younger than Mauer in Germany (609,000 BP± 40,000). The younger minimum age limit overlaps with Arago in France (435,000 BP± 85,000) and Visogliano in Italy (350,000–500,000). It is somewhat older than Ceprano (353,000 BP± 4,000), also in Italy. As for the surrounding region, there are only two other Middle Pleistocene specimens, Petralona and Apidima, both in Greece, but both are notably younger.