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Homo heidelbergensis

Photograph of a Homo heidelbergensis cranium at three-quarter view.

Homo heidelbergensis

AAC Catalogue Number: 2005.2.1

Dates: 900,000-130,000 years ago

Geographic Range: Africa and Eurasia

Anatomical Features: 

  • Large forward projecting face with large brow ridges 
  • Large brains
  • Large teeth
  • Lower jaw without a chin

Technology Used:  Homo heidelbergensis used Mode II tools (Acheulean) as well as some Mode I core and flake tools of a higher quality than earlier hominins. The oldest surviving wooden spears dating to 400,000 years ago were likely also made by Homo heidelbergensis.

Diet: Homo heidelbergensis likely ate a broad variety of plant and animal resources. Evidence also indicates that Homo heidelbergensis took part in big game hunting. 

Remaining Questions:

  • Do the specimens that we have today, which are largely undated and come from a vast geographic range, all constitute one species? Or do they represent multiple species?
  • Paleogenetic research on Homo heidelbergensis specimens found at the site of Sima de los Huesos in Spain shows that they may be early Neanderthals. What are the evolutionary relationships between Homo heidelbergensis and later hominin populations? 

Description (from Bone Clones): 

Cranium Broken Hill 1 (Rhodesian Man). “274,000-324,000 YA. The Homo heidelbergensis cranium Broken Hill 1 (Kabwe 1, or Rhodesian Man) was discovered in Kabwe, Zambia (formerly Rhodesia), by miner T. Zwigelaar and originally described by A. Woodward in 1921 in Nature as Rhodesian Man (H. rhodesiensis). This is the first human ancestor to be found in Africa. With a mosaic of features such as a wide face, thick brow ridges, a sloping forehead and a large brain capacity of 1300 cubic centimeters, it shares similar characteristics with both Homo erectus and Homo sapiens. A notable feature of this fossil is the evidence of severe tooth decay in 10 maxillary teeth.”