Homo heidelbergensis

Homo heidelbergensis is an extinct species or subspecies of archaic humans in the genus Homo, which radiated in the Middle Pleistocene from about 700,000 to 300,000 years ago,[2] known from fossils found in Southern Africa, East Africa and Europe. African H. heidelbergensis has several subspecies. The subspecies are Homo heidelbergensis heidelbergensis, Homo heidelbergensis daliensis, Homo rhodesiensis, and Homo heidelbergensis steinheimensi.[3] The derivation of Homo sapiens from Homo rhodesiensis has often been proposed, but is obscured by a fossil gap from 400–260 kya.[4] The species was originally named Homo heidelbergensis due to the skeleton's first discovery near Heidelberg, Germany.[5]

The first discovery—a mandible—was made in 1907 by Otto Schoetensack.[5][6] The skulls of this species share features with both Homo erectus and the anatomically modern Homo sapiens; its brain was nearly as large as that of Homo sapiens.[7] The Sima de los Huesos cave at Atapuerca in northern Spain holds particularly rich layers of deposits where excavations were still in progress as of 2018.[8][9][10][11]

H. heidelbergensis was dispersed throughout Eastern and Southern Africa (Ethiopia, Namibia, Southern Africa) as well as Europe (England, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Portugal, Spain).[12] Its exact relation both to the earlier Homo antecessor and Homo ergaster, and to the later lineages of Neanderthals, Denisovans, and modern humans is unclear.[13][14][15]

Homo sapiens has been proposed as derived from H. heidelbergensis via Homo rhodesiensis, present in East and North Africa from around 400,000 years ago.[16][17] The correct assignment of many fossils to a particular chronospecies is difficult and often differences in opinion ensue among paleoanthropologists due to the absence of universally accepted dividing lines (autapomorphies) between Homo erectus, Homo heidelbergensis, Homo rhodesiensis and Neanderthals.

It is uncertain whether H. heidelbergensis is ancestral to Homo sapiens, as a fossil gap in Africa between 400,000 and 260,000 years ago obscures the presumed derivation of H. sapiens from H. rhodesiensis.[18] Genetic analysis of the Sima de los Huesos fossils (Meyer et al. 2016) seems to suggest that H. heidelbergensis in its entirety should be included in the Neanderthal lineage, as "pre-Neanderthal" or "archaic Neanderthal" or "early Neanderthal", while the divergence time between the Neanderthal and modern lineages has been pushed back to before the emergence of H. heidelbergensis, to about 600,000 to 800,000 years ago, the approximate time of disappearance of Homo antecessor.[19]

The delineation between early H. heidelbergensis and H. erectus is also unclear.[11][20][21] Given the evidence, it means there is no direct evidence that suggest the Homo heidelbergensis is related to modern-day humans.

Homo heidelbergensis
Temporal range: 0.7–0.2 Ma
Middle Pleistocene[1]
Skull, Natural History Museum, London - DSCF0431
Cranium 5 (skull with jawbone) from Sima de los Huesos (cast at Natural History Museum, London)
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Primates
Suborder: Haplorhini
Infraorder: Simiiformes
Family: Hominidae
Subfamily: Homininae
Tribe: Hominini
Genus: Homo
H. heidelbergensis
Binomial name
Homo heidelbergensis

Homo rhodesiensis
(Woodward, 1921)

Derivation and taxonomy

Homo heidelbergensis (Replika) 1
Homo heidelbergensis: Steinheim skull replica

H. heidelbergensis is thought to be derived from Homo antecessor, around 800,000 to 700,000 years ago. The oldest-known fossil classified as H. heidelbergensis dates to around 600,000 years ago, but the flint tools found in 2005 at Pakefield near Lowestoft in Suffolk with teeth from the water vole Mimomys savini, a key dating species, suggest human presence in England at 700,000 years ago, assumed to correspond to a transitional form between H. antecessor and H. heidelbergensis.[22][23][24][25][26] Fifty prehistoric hominid footprints up to nearly one million years old were discovered in Happisburgh, England. They are likely members of Homo antecessor that lived from 1.2 million to 800,000 years ago.[27]

In Europe, H. heidelbergensis is taken to have given rise to H. neanderthalensis at 240,000 years ago (a conventional date dictated by a fossil gap; late H. heidelbergensis in Europe prior to 240 kya is also called "pre-Neanderthal" or "ante-Neanderthal").[28] Homo sapiens most likely derived from H. rhodesiensis (African H. heidelbergensis) after around 300,000 years ago.

A morphological separation of a European and an African branch of H. heidelbergensis during the Wolstonian Stage and Ipswichian Stage, the last of the prolonged Quaternary glacial periods, has been argued based on the evidence of the Atapuerca skull in Spain and the Kabwe skull in modern-day Zambia.[29]

Neither the derivation of H. heidelbergensis from H. erectus, nor the derivation of anatomically modern humans and Neanderthals from H. heidelbergensis, are clear-cut and are the object of debate. Both H. erectus and H. heidelbergensis are described as polytypic species, which went through a number of population bottlenecks and associated [30] In the summary of Hublin (2013), Middle Pleistocene humans in Eurasia underwent a succession of population bottlenecks due to glaciations. The "Western Eurasian clade" derived form H. rhodesiensis or H. heidelbergensis sensu lato (i.e. the Neanderthals) diverge at MIS 12 (480 kya) but coalesce as late as MIS 5 (130 kya), suggesting a division between Eurasian H. heidelbergensis and H. neanderthalensis before MIS 11 (424 kya). A fossil gap in Africa between 400 and 260 kya obscures the presumed derivation of H. sapiens from H. rhodesiensis.[18]

Chris Stringer (2012) argues for Homo heidelbergensis as an independent chronospecies.[31] A 2013 genetic study on the Sima de los Huesos fossils classified them as H. heidelbergensis or "early Neanderthal". [32]

For more than half a century, many experts were reluctant to accept Homo heidelbergensis as a separate taxon due to the rarity of specimens, which prevented sufficient informative morphological comparisons and the distinction of H. heidelbergensis from other known human species.[33] The species name "heidelbergensis" only experienced a renaissance with the many discoveries of Middle Pleistocene fossils since the 1990s.[34][35]

The paleontology institute at Heidelberg University, where the type specimen is kept since 1908, as late as 2010 still classified it as Homo erectus heidelbergensis, i.e. categorizing it as a Homo erectus subspecies. This was reportedly changed to Homo heidelbergensis, accepting the categorization as separate species, in 2015.[36]

"Rhodesian Man" (Kabwe 1) is now mostly classified as Homo heidelbergensis, though other designations such as Homo sapiens arcaicus[37] and Homo sapiens rhodesiensis[38] have also been proposed. White et al. (2003) suggested Rhodesian Man as ancestral to Homo sapiens idaltu (Herto Man).[39]


MEH Homo heidelbergensis Daynes
H. heidelbergensis adult male, reconstruction by Élisabeth Daynès (2010) based on fragments from Sima de los Huesos

Homo heidelbergensis is intermediate between Homo erectus and Homo neanderthalensis, with a typical cranial volume of approximately 1,250 cm3 (76 cu in).[40] "The anatomy [of H. heidelbergensis] is clearly more primitive than that of Neanderthal, but the harmoniously rounded dental arch and the complete row of teeth...already typically human."[41]

In general, the findings show a continuation of evolutionary trends that are emerging from around the Lower into Middle Pleistocene. Along with changes in the robustness of cranial and dental features, a remarkable increase in brain size from H. erectus towards H. heidelbergensis is noticeable.[42]

Male H. heidelbergensis averaged about 1.75 m (5 ft 9 in) tall and 62 kg (136 lb). Females averaged 1.57 m (5 ft 2 in) and 51 kg (112 lb).[43] A reconstruction of 27 complete human limb bones found in Atapuerca (Burgos, Spain) has helped to determine the height of H. heidelbergensis compared with H. neanderthalensis; the conclusion was that these H. heidelbergensis averaged about 170 cm (5 ft 7in) in height and were only slightly taller than Neanderthals.[44][45]

According to Lee R. Berger of the University of the Witwatersrand, tibia and femora remains indicate that populations of H. heidelbergensis between 350,000 and 400,000 years ago were routinely over 2.13 m (7 ft) tall.[46][47][48] According to him, this was a short-lived experiment that lasted during a grassland expansion, which lead to very large ungulates and antelopes.

Otto Schoetensack described the mandible Mauer 1 in his original species description in 1907:[49]

The "nature of our object" reveals itself "at first sight" since "a certain disproportion between the jaw and the teeth" is obvious: "The teeth are too small for the bone. The available space would allow for a far greater flexibility of development" and "It shows a combination of features, which has been previously found neither on a recent nor a fossil human mandible. Even the scholar should not be blamed if he would only reluctantly accept it as human: Entirely missing is the one feature, which is regarded as particularly human, namely an outer projection of the chin portion, yet this deficiency is found to be combined with extremely strange dimensions of the mandibular body. The actual proof that we are dealing with human parts here only lies within the nature of the dentition. The completely preserved teeth bear the stamp 'human' as evidence: The canines show no trace of a stronger expression in relation to the other groups of teeth. They suggest a moderate and harmonious co-evolution, as it is the case in recent humans."


Boxgrove handaxe
One of hundreds of handaxes found at Boxgrove

Discoveries in a pit in Atapuerca (Spain) of 28 human skeletons suggest that H. heidelbergensis might have been the first species of the genus Homo to bury its dead.[50]

The morphology of the outer and middle ear suggests they had an auditory sensitivity similar to modern humans. They were probably able to differentiate between many different sounds.[51] Dental wear analysis suggests they were as likely to be right-handed as modern people.[52] Steven Mithen[53] believes that H. heidelbergensis, like its descendant H. neanderthalensis, acquired a pre-linguistic system of communication. No forms of art have been uncovered, although red ochre, a mineral that can be used to mix a red pigment which is useful as a paint, has been found at Terra Amata excavations in the south of France.

An archeological site in Schöningen, Germany contained eight exceptionally well-preserved roughly-400,000-year-old spears for hunting, and various other wooden tools. Five-hundred-thousand-year-old hafted stone points used for hunting are reported from Kathu Pan 1 in South Africa, tested by way of use-wear replication.[54] This find could mean that modern humans and Neanderthals inherited the stone-tipped spear, rather than developing the technology independently.[54][55]

The Schöningen spears are eight wooden throwing spears, dated to before 300,000 years ago, discovered between 1994 and 1998 in the open-cast lignite mine, in Schöningen, county Helmstedt, Germany, together with thousands of animal bones. They are regarded as the direct evidence for active hunting by H. heidelbergensis (pre-Neanderthals).[56]


Mandibel from Mauer
Original type specimen from Mauer


Mauer 1, the first fossil discovery of this species, was found on 21 October 1907, at Mauer, near Heidelberg, Germany. However, it was not until 1908 that the discovery gained traction among public interest.[57] It is a jaw in good condition except for the missing premolar teeth, which were eventually found near the jaw. Otto Schoetensack, from the University of Heidelberg, identified and named the fossil.[58]

The next H. heidelbergensis remains were found in Steinheim an der Murr, Germany (the Steinheim skull, 350kya), Arago, France (Arago 21), Petralona, Greece, and Ciampate del Diavolo, Italy.

Boxgrove Man is the name associated with a lower tibia discovered in 1994 at the Boxgrove Quarry site, close to the English Channel. The fossil was found along with hundreds of hand axes, and has been dated between 478,000 and 524,000 years old.[59] Several H. heidelbergensis teeth were found at the same site in subsequent seasons.

Beginning in 1992, a Spanish team has located more than 5,500 human bones dated to an age of at least 350,000 years in the Sima de los Huesos site in the Sierra de Atapuerca in northern Spain. The pit contains fossils of perhaps 32 individuals together with remains of Ursus deningeri and other carnivores and a biface nicknamed Excalibur.[60] It is hypothesized that this Acheulean axe made of red quartzite was some kind of ritual offering for a funeral. If it is so, it would be the oldest evidence of known of funerary practices.[60] Ninety percent of the known H. heidelbergensis remains have been obtained from this site. The fossil pit bones include:

Nearby sites contain the only known and controversial Homo antecessor fossils.

There is current debate among scholars whether the remains at Sima de los Huesos are those of H. heidelbergensis or early H. neanderthalensis.[61] In 2015, the study of mitochondrial DNA samples from three caves Sima de los Huesos revealed that they are "distantly related to the mitochondrial DNA of Denisovans rather than to that of Neanderthals."[62]

In 2016 nuclear DNA analysis determined the Sima hominins are Neanderthals and not Denisova hominins, and the divergence between Neanderthals, Denisovans and anatomically modern humans predates 430,000 years ago.[63][64]

Recent studies have hypothesized that homo sapiens and Neanderthals separated from the Homo heidelbergensis branch. They also proposed that "[a]s there are potential H. heidelbergensis fossils from Asia, it is possible they could represent the ancestors of the Denisovans."[5]


Broken Hill Skull (Replica01)
Replica of the Kabwe skull
Homo heidelbergensis adult male - head model - Smithsonian Museum of Natural History - 2012-05-17
Facial reconstruction based on the Kabwe skull by John Gurche (2010), Smithsonian Museum of Natural History
Burgos - Museo de la Evolución Humana (MEH) - Homo Rhodesiensis
Reconstruction of Homo rhodesiensis based on the Kabwe skull, by Élisabeth Daynès (2010), Museum of Human Evolution, Burgos

A number of morphologically-comparable fossil remains came to light in East Africa (Bodo, Ndutu, Eyasi, Ileret) and North Africa (Salé, Rabat, Dar-es-Soltane, Djbel Irhoud, Sidi Aberrahaman, Tighenif) during the 20th century.[65] The Saldanha cranium, found in 1953 in South Africa was subject to at least three taxonomic revisions from 1955 to 1996.[66]

Kabwe 1, also called the Broken Hill skull, was assigned by Arthur Smith Woodward in 1921 as the type specimen for Homo rhodesiensis; it is today mostly assigned to Homo heidelbergensis.[67][68] It was found in a lead and zinc mine in Broken Hill, Northern Rhodesia (now Kabwe, Zambia) in 1921 by Tom Zwiglaar, a Swiss miner. In addition to the cranium, an upper jaw from another individual, a sacrum, a tibia, and two femur fragments were also found. The skull was dubbed "Rhodesian Man" at the time of the find, but is now commonly referred to as the Broken Hill skull or the Kabwe cranium. Cranial capacity of the Broken Hill skull has been estimated at 1,230 cm3 (75 cu in).[69] Bada, & al., (1974) published the direct date of 110 ka for this specimen measured by aspartic acid racemization.[70][71] The destruction of the paleoanthropological site has made layered dating impossible. The skull suggests an extremely robust individual with the comparatively largest brow-ridges of any known hominin. It was described as having a broad face similar to that of Homo neanderthalensis (i.e. large nasal bones and thick protruding brow ridges). Consequently, researchers came up with interpretations such as "African Neanderthal". However, with regard to the skull's extreme robustness, recent research has highlighted several intermediate features between modern Homo sapiens and Neanderthal. The skull has cavities in ten of the upper teeth and is considered one of the oldest known occurrences of cavities. Pitting indicates significant infection before death and implies that the cause of death may have been due to dental disease infection or possibly chronic ear infection. The skull is kept in the Natural History Museum, London.[72] There is a replica in the Museum in Livingstone, Zambia.

The 600,000-year-old[73] Bodo cranium was found in 1976 by members of an expedition led by Jon Kalb at Bodo D'ar in the Awash River valley of Ethiopia.[74] The initial discovery—a lower face—was made by Alemayhew Asfaw and Charles Smart. Two weeks later, Paul Whitehead and Craig Wood found the upper portion of the face. The skull is 600,000 years old.[75] Although the skull is most similar to those of Kabwe, Woodward's nomenclature was discontinued and its discoverers attributed it to H. heidelbergensis.[76] It has features that represent a transition between Homo ergaster/erectus and Homo sapiens.[77]

Another specimen,[78] "the hominid from Lake Ndutu" in northern Tanzania, around 400,000 years old. In 1976 R. J. Clarke classified it as Homo erectus and it has generally been viewed as such since, although points of similarity to H. sapiens have also been recognized. After comparative studies with similar finds in Africa allocation to an African subspecies of H. sapiens seems most appropriate.[79] An indirect cranial capacity estimate suggests 1,100 ml (39 imp fl oz; 37 US fl oz). Its supratoral sulcus morphology and the presence of protuberance as suggested by Philip Rightmire "give the Nudutu occiput an appearance which is also unlike that of Homo erectus", but Stinger (1986) pointed out that a thickened iliac pillar is typical for Homo erectus.[80] In a 1989 publication Clarke concludes: "It is assigned to archaic Homo sapiens on the basis of its expanded parietal and occipital regions of the brain".[81]

The Saldanha cranium, or Elandsfontein cranium, are fossilized remains later identified as Homo heidelbergensis, found in 1954 in Elandsfontein, located in the Hopefield of South Africa.[82]

New evidence


The Homo heidelbergensis has been indicated as an ancestor of modern humans that did not have air sacs. It is said that the loss of air sacs contributed to humans' ability to develop further in vocal language. Ancestors, such as the Australopithecus, did not have air sacs.[83] Furthermore, evidence has shown that Homo heidelbergensis were right-handed. Right-handedness is associated with the development of language among hominins.[84] Considering this evidence, scientist have hypothesized about the speaking capabilities of the species. A recent study, that compared the speech frequency of humans and chimpanzees, reported that the Homo heidelbergensis speech abilities most resemble that of modern-day humans. More specifically, "the Atapuerca SH hominins show[ed] a bandwidth that [wa]s slightly displaced and considerably extended to encompass the frequencies that contain relevant acoustic information in human speech."[85]

Homo heidelbergenis firsts

Homo heidelbergensis Atapuerca 5 IMG 5649 BMNH
The skull of the Homo heidelbergensis with odontogenic orbital cellulitis[86]

The Homo heidelbergensis is home to many firsts for the human species. It has been noted by the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History to be the first species of the homo genus branch to build permanent shelters.[87] Furthermore, the physical build of the Homo heidlebergensis allowed it to be the first of the homo genus to withstand colder temperatures, paving the way for its successors to evolve to withstand even colder landscapes. The ratio of height to width, with a wide body in comparison to height, is what enabled the species to conserve more body heat to endure harsher climates.[87][88] It has also been proposed by scientists that the Homo heidelbergensis was the first to contract odontogenic orbital cellulitis, or a severe eye infection, that developed from an abscess in the mouth.[89][90]


  • The "Galilee skull", found in 1925/6 at Mugharet el-Zuttiyeh, now in Israel, has been described as "the most likely Heidelberg candidate from Western Asia".[91]
  • Petralona 1, discovered in Petralona cave, Greece, in 1960, dated to between roughly 350,000 and 150,000 years old. It has been classified as either H. heidelbergensis or H. neanderthalensis.[92]
  • Tautavel Man (Arago 21) is a human skull discovered on 22 July 1971 near the village of Tautavel in Pyrénées-Orientales, dated at 450,000 years old. The fossil was classified as Homo erectus tautavelensis, and as such would not belong to H. heidelbergensis but to a different lineage of H. erectus which occupied Europe at the same time as H. heidelbergensis.[93]

See also

Further reading

  • Avery, D. Margaret. 2018. "Micromammals from the Type Site of Broken Hill Man (Homo Rhodesiensis) near Kabwe, Zambia: A Historical Note." Historical Biology 30 (1–2): 276–83. https://doi.org/10.1080/08912963.2017.1297434.[94]
  • Back ache: it's been a pain for millions of years - University of Cambridge
  • Friess, Martin. 2010. "Calvarial Shape Variation among Middle Pleistocene Hominins: An Application of Surface Scanning in Palaeoanthropology." Comptes Rendus Palevol, Imaging & 3D in palaeontology and palaeoanthropology, 9 (6): 435–43. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.crpv.2010.07.016.[95]
  • Godinho, Ricardo Miguel, Laura C. Fitton, Viviana Toro-Ibacache, Chris B. Stringer, Rodrigo S. Lacruz, Timothy G. Bromage, and Paul O'Higgins. 2018. "The Biting Performance of Homo Sapiens and Homo Heidelbergensis." Journal of Human Evolution 118 (May): 56–71. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jhevol.2018.02.010.[96]
  • Hublin, Jean-Jacques, Abdelouahed Ben-Ncer, Shara E. Bailey, Sarah E. Freidline, Simon Neubauer, Matthew M. Skinner, Inga Bergmann, et al. 2017. "New Fossils from Jebel Irhoud, Morocco and the Pan-African Origin of Homo Sapiens." Nature 546 (7657): 289–92. https://doi.org/10.1038/nature22336.[97]
  • Murrill, Rupert I. (1975). "A comparison of the Rhodesian and Petralona upper jaws in relation to other Pleistocene hominids". Zeitschrift für Morphologie und Anthropologie. 66: 176–187..
  • Murrill, Rupert Ivan (1981). Ed. Charles C. Thomas (ed.). Petralona Man. A Descriptive and Comparative Study, with New Information on Rhodesian Man. Springfield, Illinois: Thomas. ISBN 978-0-398-04550-0.
  • Perner, Josef, and Frank Esken. 2015. "Evolution of Human Cooperation in Homo Heidelbergensis: Teleology versus Mentalism." Developmental Review, Theories of development, 38 (December): 69–88. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.dr.2015.07.005.[98]
  • Reich, David (2018). Who We Are And How We Got Here - Ancient DNA and the New Science of the Human Past. Pantheon Books. ISBN 978-1101870327.[99]
  • Rice, Stanley (2006). Encyclopedia of Evolution. Facts on File, Inc.
  • Sauer, A. (1985). Erläuterungen zur Geol. Karte 1 : 25 000 Baden-Württ. Stuttgart.
  • Schoetensack, O. (1908). Der Unterkiefer des Homo heidelbergensis aus den Sanden von Mauer bei Heidelberg. Leipzig: Wilhelm Engelmann.
  • Singer Robert R. and J. Wymer (1968). "Archaeological Investigation at the Saldanha Skull Site in South Africa". The South African Archaeological Bulletin. 23 (3): 63–73. doi:10.2307/3888485. JSTOR 3888485.
  • Studies on the condition and structure of bone of the Saldanha fossil cranium
  • Weinert, Hans (1937). "Dem Unterkiefer von Mauer zur 30jährigen Wiederkehr seiner Entdeckung". Zeitschrift für Morphologie und Anthropologie (in German). 37 (1): 102–13. JSTOR 25749563.
  • Woodward, Arthur Smith (1921). "A New Cave Man from Rhodesia, South Africa". Nature. 108 (2716): 371–372. Bibcode:1921Natur.108..371W. doi:10.1038/108371a0.


  1. ^ H. heidelbergensis likely speciated into H. sapiens and H. neanderthalensis before c. 250 ka, but late survival of H. heidelbergensis in Africa is suggested by the tentative dating of Kabwe 1, the type specimen of H. rhodesiensis, at 110 ka.
  2. ^ The fossil range spans about 0.6 to 0.4 Ma; cladistically, H. heidelbergensis is estimated to have developed from H. erectus (or H. antecessor) around 0.8–0.7 Ma, and given rise to H. neanderthalensis (and, via H. rhodesiensis, possibly H. sapiens) around 0.4–0.3 Ma.
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External links

Media related to Homo heidelbergensis at Wikimedia Commons

Aroeira 3

Aroeira 3 is a 400,000 year old Homo heidelbergensis hominid skull which was discovered in the Aroeira cave, Portugal. It is the earliest human trace in Portugal. H. heidelbergensis existed at the transition between Homo erectus and early Neanderthals and used both stone tools and fire. The skull was damaged during the 2014 excavation but was restored in the following two years. In 2017 the description of the skull was published in PNAS. It is on display in the National Archaeology Museum (Lisbon).

Atapuerca Mountains

The Atapuerca Mountains (Spanish: Sierra de Atapuerca) is a karstic hill formation near the village of Atapuerca, in the Province of Burgos (autonomous community of Castile and Leon), northern Spain. In a still ongoing excavation campaign, rich fossil deposits and stone tool assemblages were discovered which are attributed to the earliest known hominin residents in Western Europe. This "exceptional reserve of data" has been deposited during extensive Lower Paleolithic presence, as the Atapuerca Mountains served as the preferred occupation site of Homo erectus, Homo antecessor (or Homo erectus antecessor), Homo heidelbergensis and Homo neanderthalensis communities. The earliest specimen so far unearthed and reliably dated confirm an age between 1.2 Million and 630,000 years. Some finds are exhibited in the nearby Museum of Human Evolution, in Burgos. The site was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site, under the name, Archaeological Site of Atapuerca.


Azykhantrop, or "Azyk Man", is the lower jaw of a presumably female Homo heidelbergensis pre-Neanderthal. The fossil was found in Azykh Cave, Khojavand, Azerbaijan SSR, in 1968, by Azerbaijani Mammadali Huseynov.

No reliable date has been produced, but estimates range from 450,000 to 50,000 years ago.Acheulean Paleolithic implements and remains of fire were also found out in the cave. Starting in the mid 1990s, researchers from Armenia, England, Ireland and Spain began renewed excavations at Azykh Cave.

Bodo cranium

The Bodo cranium is a fossil of an extinct type of hominin species. It was found by members of an expedition led by Jon Kalb in 1976 at Bodo D'ar, Awash River valley of Ethiopia. The initial discovery was by Alemayhew Asfaw and Charles Smart, a lower face. Two weeks later, Paul Whitehead and Craig Wood found the upper portion of the face. The skull is 600,000 years old and is classified as Homo heidelbergensis (Homo rhodesiensis). The cranium has an unusual appearance, which has led to debates over its taxonomy.

Boxgrove Man

Boxgrove Man is a fossil thought to belong to Homo heidelbergensis, an extinct relative of modern humans (Homo sapiens), and dated to roughly half a million years old.

The fossil was discovered in 1993 in Boxgrove, West Sussex, near the south coast of England, by archaeologist Mark Roberts and his team of the Institute of Archeology at University College London. Only two pieces of the tibia (shinbone) and two teeth were found, so little is known about the subject's history. It is even possible that this was a strongly-built woman. He or she was about 40 years old, 1.8 m (5 foot 11 inches) tall, and weighed roughly 14 stone (200 lb; 89 kg). It is thought to be the oldest human fossil ever discovered in Britain.

Cave of Aroeira

The Cave of Aroeira is an archaeological and paleoanthropological site in the central limestone massif of the Portuguese Estremadura. The cave is located in the village of Almonda, in the civil parish of Zibreira, in the municipality of Torres Novas in the district of Santarém. The cave contained stones from the Paleolithic Acheulean culture, and the skull of Homo heidelbergensis, circa 400,000 years old. The discovery of Aroeira 3 was announced in spring 2017 - the earliest human trace in Portugal.

Ceprano Man

Ceprano Man, Argil, and Ceprano Calvarium, refers to a Middle Pleistocene archaic human fossil, a single skull cap (calvaria), accidentally unearthed in a highway construction project in 1994 near Ceprano in the province of Frosinone, Italy. Although damaged by a bulldozer it was recognized, documented and described by archeologist Italo Biddittu, who happened to be present when the fossil came to light. and Mallegni et al. (2003) proposed the introduction of a new human species, dubbed Homo cepranensis, based on the fossil. although other paleontologists have classified it as belonging to Homo heidelbergensis. Mounier et al. (2011) have identified the fossil as "an appropriate ancestral stock" of H. heidelbergensis, "preceding the appearance of regional autapomorphic features".The holotype (see image) of Homo cepranenis has a unique combination of morphological features:

1: incomplete sulcus supraorbitalis, 2: frontal tuber weakly developed medially shifted, 3: supraorbital region medially concave, 4: intermediate position of the external auditory meatus in regard to the processus zygomaticus temporalis); 5 and 6 (blue) = more derived traits (i.e. 5: straight torus occipitalis transversus, 6: medio-lateral concavity of the articular tubercle); 7 to 10 (green) = more primitive traits (i.e. 7: petro-tympanic crest orientated downward, 8: opisthocranion coincident with inion, 9: processus retromastoideus, 10: torus angularis parietalis.The fossil was first estimated to be between 690,000 to 900,000 years old determined on the basis of regional correlations and a series of absolute dates.

Taking the circumstances of the recovery of the fossil into account A. Ascenzi (2001) stated: "...given the absence in the sediments containing the cranium of any leucitic remnants of the more recent volcanic activity known in the region—that are referred to the range between 100 and 700 ka and the presence above the cranium itself of a clear stratigraphic unconformity that marks the lowest limit of the sandy leucitic pyroclasts, an age between 800 and 900 ka is at present our best chronological estimate.[sic]" After clarification of its geostratigraphic, biostratigraphic and archaeological relation to the well known and nearby Acheulean site of Fontana Ranuccio, dated to 487±6 ka, Muttoni et al. (2009) suggested that Ceprano is most likely about 450,000 years old - the mid of the Middle Pleistocene.

The cranial features on the bone seem to be intermediate between those found on Homo erectus and those of later species, such as Homo heidelbergensis, that dominated Europe long before Homo neanderthalensis. A 2011 study suggested that it was ancestral to Homo neanderthalensis.


The Clactonian is the name given by archaeologists to an industry of European flint tool manufacture that dates to the early part of the interglacial period known as the Hoxnian, the Mindel-Riss or the Holstein stages (c. 400,000 years ago). Clactonian tools were made by Homo heidelbergensis.It is named after 400,000-year-old finds made by Hazzledine Warren in a palaeochannel at Clacton-on-Sea in the English county of Essex in 1911. The artefacts found there included flint chopping tools, flint flakes and the tip of a worked wooden shaft along with the remains of a giant elephant and hippopotamus. Further examples of the tools have been found at sites including Barnfield Pit and Rickson's Pit, near Swanscombe in Kent and Barnham in Suffolk; similar industries have been identified across Northern Europe. The Clactonian industry involved striking thick, irregular flakes from a core of flint, which was then employed as a chopper. The flakes would have been used as crude knives or scrapers. Unlike the Oldowan tools from which Clactonian ones derived, some were notched implying that they were attached to a handle or shaft. Retouch is uncommon and the prominent bulb of percussion on the flakes indicates use of a hammerstone.

An "Egyptian verson" of the Clactonian industry was proposed in 1972, based on excavations on the banks of the Nile River, at the 100 foot terrace.

Homo rhodesiensis

Homo rhodesiensis is the species name proposed by Arthur Smith Woodward (1921) to classify Kabwe 1 (the "Kabwe skull" or "Broken Hill skull", also "Rhodesian Man"), a Middle Stone Age fossil recovered from a cave at Broken Hill, or Kabwe, Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia).H. rhodesiensis is now mostly considered a synonym of Homo heidelbergensis, or possibly an African subspecies of Homo heidelbergensis sensu lato, understood as a polymorphic species dispersed throughout Africa and Eurasia with a range spanning the Middle Pleistocene (c. 0.8–0.12 mya).

Other designations such as Homo sapiens arcaicus and Homo sapiens rhodesiensis have also been proposed. White et al. (2003) suggested Rhodesian Man as ancestral to Homo sapiens idaltu (Herto Man).The derivation of Homo sapiens from Homo rhodesiensis has often been proposed, but is obscured by a fossil gap during 400–260 kya.

Kabwe 1

Kabwe 1 (also called the Broken Hill skull, Rhodesian Man) is a Middle Paleolithic fossil assigned by Arthur Smith Woodward in 1921 as the type specimen for Homo rhodesiensis, now mostly considered a synonym of Homo heidelbergensis.The cranium was discovered in the lead and zinc mine of Broken Hill, Northern Rhodesia (now Kabwe, Zambia) on 17 June 1921 by Tom Zwiglaar, a Swiss miner, and an African miner whose name was not recorded.

In addition to the cranium, an upper jaw from another individual, a sacrum, a tibia, and two femur fragments were also found. The skull was dubbed "Rhodesian Man" at the time of the find, but is now commonly referred to as the Broken Hill skull or the Kabwe cranium.

The skull is kept in the Natural History Museum, London.

Mauer 1

The Mauer 1 mandible is the oldest known specimen of the genus Homo in Germany. It was found in 1907 in a sand quarry in the community Mauer, around 10 km (6.2 mi) south-east of Heidelberg. The Mauer 1 mandible is the type specimen of the species Homo heidelbergensis. Some European researchers have classified the find as Homo erectus heidelbergensis, regarding it as a subspecies of Homo erectus. In 2010 the mandible's age was for the first time exactly determined to be 609,000 ± 40,000 years. Previously, specialist literature had referred to an age of either 600,000 or 500,000 years on the basis of less accurate dating methods.


Miguelón is the popular nickname for a human skull, classified as either late Homo heidelbergensis or as early Homo neanderthalensis.

It has been estimated to date to 430,000 years ago. More than 5,500 human fossils of this populations have been found in the Sima de los Huesos ("pit of bones") site in the Sierra de Atapuerca in northern Spain.

The excavators suggest that this concentration of bones in the pit may represent the practice of burial by the inhabitants of the cave. A competing theory cites the lack of small bones in the assemblage and suggests that the remains were washed into the pit by natural agents.

Evidence in the form of genetic analysis suggests that the Sima de los Huesos hominins were ancestral to later Neanderthals. Subsequently, there is debate about whether to include them within Homo heidelbergensis or whether they represent early members of Homo neanderthalensis.Miguelón, around thirty years old, had suffered 13 impacts in the head and died of sepsis resulting from broken teeth. The frontal squama has a spherical depression on the left side indicative of a blow to the head by a club or rounded flint implement wielded by a right-handed individual. In his upper left jaw there is an important bone alteration, with evidence of alveolar infection. According to Arsuaga, a tooth had been broken in life by a strong blow, so that the flesh had been exposed and led to an infectious process that continued until nearly the orbital bone. The cranial capacity is around 1100cc.The nickname Miguelón was derived from Miguel Indurain, a retired Spanish road racing cyclist that won the Tour and Giro in 1992, the year in which this skull was discovered.

Paleolithic Europe

Paleolithic Europe, the Lower or Old Stone Age in Europe encompasses the era from the arrival of the first archaic humans, about 1.4 million years ago until the beginning of the Mesolithic (also Epipaleolithic) around 10,000 years ago. This period thus covers over 99% of the total human presence on the European continent. The early arrival and disappearance of Homo erectus and Homo heidelbergensis, the appearance, complete evolution and eventual demise of Homo neanderthalensis and the immigration and successful settlement of Homo sapiens all have taken place during the European Paleolithic.

Saldanha man

Saldanha man also known as Saldanha cranium or Elandsfontein cranium are fossilized remains of an archaic human. It is one of the key specimens for Homo heidelbergensis. It has not been dated directly, and is estimated to be roughly 0.5 million years old.

The remains, which included a fragment of lower jaw, were found on an exposed surface between shifting sand dunes on the farm Elandsfontein, which is located near Hopefield, South Africa.

It was found associated with a variety of fossil vertebrates, and initially classified as Homo saldanensis (Drennan 1955).

Singer (1954) noted close resemblance to Kabwe 1 and LH 18.

Comparison with Kabwe 1 specifically, and thus classification as Afrian H. heidelbergensis (H. rhodesiensis) was also regularly supported by later authors.

Samu (fossil)

Samu is the nickname given to a fragmentary human occipital bone (also known as "Vertesszolos man", or "Vertesszolos occipital") found in Vértesszőlős, Central Transdanubia, Hungary.

The discovery was made on 21 August 1965 during a dig led by László Vértes, and the fossil was named Sámuel, 21 August being the name day of biblical judge Samuel in Hungarian tradition.

It has since become widely known as Samu, a Hungarian short form of the name.

Hungarian anthropologist Andor Thoma (1928–2003) initially described it as Homo erectus seu sapiens paleohungaricus. The fossil at the time was believed to be about 500,000 years old, and some literature of the 1970s classifies it as Homo erectus.

Analyses performed in the 1990s have revealed a significantly younger age, at between 250,000 and 300,000 years old (Mindel glaciation), and the fossil is now classified as Homo heidelbergensis.The Vértesszőlős archaeological site itself had been discovered by Márton Pécsi in 1962. Also found at the site were two child teeth, Abbevillian stone tools and a fireplace. The site is now open to the public.

A replica of the Samu occipital bone is on exhibit in the local museum (the original is kept in the Hungarian National Museum), as well as associated tools and fossilized animal footprints."Samu" has become a common name for plastic skeletons shown in biology classes in Hungarian student slang.

Schöningen spears

The Schöningen spears are a set of eight wooden throwing spears from the Palaeolithic Age that were excavated between 1994 and 1998 in the open-cast lignite mine in Schöningen, Helmstedt district, Germany, together with an associated cache of approximately 16,000 animal bones. The excavations took place under the management of Hartmut Thieme of the Lower Saxony State Service for Cultural Heritage (NLD).

Originally assessed as being between 380,000 and 400,000 years old, they represent the oldest completely preserved hunting weapons of prehistoric Europe so far discovered.

As such they predate the age of Neanderthal Man (by convention taken to emerge after 300,000 years ago), and is associated with Homo heidelbergensis.

The spears support the practice of hunting by archaic humans in Europe in the late Lower Paleolithic.

The age of the spears was estimated from their stratigraphic position, "sandwiched between deposits of the Elsterian and Saalian glaciations, and situated within a well-studied sedimentary sequence.". More recently, thermoluminescence dating of heated flints in a deposit beneath that which contained the spears suggested that the spears were between 337,000 and 300,000 years old.

Steinheim skull

The Steinheim skull is a fossilized skull of a Homo heidelbergensis found on 24 July 1933 near Steinheim an der Murr, Nazi Germany.

It is estimated to be between 250,000 and 350,000 years old. The skull is slightly flattened and has a cranial capacity between 950 and 1280 cc. Sometimes referred to as Homo steinheimensis in older literature, the original fossil is housed in the State Museum of Natural History in Stuttgart, Germany. Some believe that the Steinheim skull may have belonged to an adult female due to its gracile nature.

Swanscombe Heritage Park

Swanscombe Skull Site or Swanscombe Heritage Park is a 3.9 hectares (9.6 acres) geological Site of Special Scientific Interest in Swanscombe in north-west Kent. It contains two Geological Conservation Review sites, and a National Nature Reserve.

The park lies in a former gravel quarry, Barnfield Pit.

The area was already famous for the finds of numerous Palaeolithic-era handaxes—mostly Acheulean and Clactonian artifacts, some as much as 400,000 years old—when in 1935/1936 work at Barnfield Pit uncovered two fossilised skull fragments. These fragments came to be known as the remains of Swanscombe Man. The bones were later found to have belonged to a young woman. The Swanscombe skull has been identified as early Neanderthal, dating to the Hoxnian Interglacial around 400,000 years ago. Swanscombe is one of only two sites in Britain which have yielded Lower Paleolithic human fossils, the other being Boxgrove Quarry, where 500,000-year-old leg bones and teeth ("Boxgrove Man"), were found.

The skull fragments were found in the lower middle terrace gravels at a depth of almost 8 metres beneath the surface. They were found by Alvan T. Marston, an amateur archaeologist who visited the pit between quarrying operations to search for flint tools. A third, matching fragment of the same skull was found in 1955 by Bertram and John Wymer.

Further excavations, carried out between 1968-1972 by Dr. John d'Arcy Waechter, uncovered more animal bone and flint tools, and established the extent of a former shoreline that the bones were found on.

Most of the bone finds are now in the Natural History Museum in London, with the stone finds at the British Museum. The other key paleolithic sites in the UK are Happisburgh, Pakefield, Pontnewydd, Kents Cavern, Paviland, and Gough's Cave.

Wivenhoe Gravel Pit

Wivenhoe Gravel Pit is a 2.1 hectare geological Site of Special Scientific Interest north of Wivenhoe in Essex. It is a Geological Conservation Review site.The site is the type locality for the Wivenhoe Gravel, which was laid down by the River Thames before it was diverted south to its present course by the Anglian glaciation around 450,000 years ago. The gravel was laid down during two cold stages with an intervening interglacial, but the fossils in from this warmer period are not distinctive enough to identify which interglacial they come from. The site is important for establishing the previous course of the Thames. Two worked flints may be evidence of occupation by Homo heidelbergensis around half a million years ago.The pit, which is now water filled, is in a field off Brightlingsea Road opposite Broad Lanes.

Homo heidelbergensis
Transitional fossils with
H. heidelbergensis traits
Related species

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