The name comes from the Abri de Cro-Magnon (French: rock shelter of Cro-Magnon, the big cave in Occitan) near the commune of Les Eyzies-de-Tayac-Sireuil in southwestern France, where the first specimen was found. Being the oldest known modern humans (Homo sapiens sapiens) in Europe, the Cro-Magnons were from the outset linked to the well-known Lascaux cave paintings and the Aurignacian culture whose remains were well known from southern France and Germany. As additional remains of early modern humans were discovered in archaeological sites from Western Europe and elsewhere, and dating techniques improved in the early 20th century, new finds were added to the taxonomic classification.
The term "Cro-Magnon" soon came to be used in a general sense to describe the oldest modern people in Europe. By the 1970s the term was used for any early modern human wherever found, as was the case with the far-flung Jebel Qafzeh remains in Israel and various Paleo-Indians in the Americas. However, analyses based on more current data concerning the migrations of early humans have contributed to a refined definition of this expression. Today, the term "Cro-Magnon" falls outside the usual naming conventions for early humans, though it remains an important term within the archaeological community as an identifier for the commensurate fossil remains in Europe and adjacent areas. Current scientific literature prefers the term "European Early Modern Humans" (or EEMH), instead of "Cro-Magnon". The oldest definitely dated EEMH specimen is the Grotta del Cavallo tooth dated in 2011 to at least 43,000 years old.
- 1: a hominid of a tall erect race of the Upper Paleolithic known from skeletal remains found chiefly in southern France and classified as the same species (Homo sapiens) as present-day humans
Cro-Magnon is a name that has been used to describe the first early modern humans (early Homo sapiens sapiens) of the European Upper Paleolithic. Current scientific literature prefers the term European Early Modern Humans (EEMH), to the term 'Cro-Magnon' which has no formal taxonomic status, as it refers neither to a species or subspecies nor to an archaeological phase or culture. The earliest known remains of Cro-Magnon-like humans are radiocarbon dated to 43,000 years before present.
Cro-Magnons were robustly built and powerful. The body was generally heavy and solid with a strong musculature. The forehead was fairly straight rather than sloping like in Neanderthals, and with only slight browridges. The face was short and wide. Like other modern humans, Cro-Magnons had a prominent chin. The brain capacity was about 1,600 cubic centimetres (98 cu in), larger than the average for modern humans. However, recent research suggests that the physical dimensions of so-called "Cro-Magnon" are not sufficiently different from modern humans to warrant a separate designation.