Tag Archives: Homo heidelbergensis

Florisbad

florisbad259 thousand years ago. Compare this skull (admittedly fragmentary), discovered at Florisbad, South Africa (1932), with the Broken Hill skull, from not too far away (Zambia). Florisbad wouldn’t be mistaken for a modern human, but it’s clearly moving in that direction compared to Broken Hill. Reflecting this intermediate state, Florisbad is sometimes assigned to Homo heidelbergensis, sometimes to archaic Homo sapiens, and sometimes to its own species, Homo helmei. The simplest explanation would be that something like Broken Hill evolved into something like Florisbad. Could be. But the story might be more complicated. The time interval between the two is short (40 thousand years), and we’re not even sure about the date for Broken Hill; he might not be as old as we thought. So there might have been multiple species of humans coexisting in Africa at this point, just as there were still other human species outside Africa. There is some genetic evidence that non-sapiens humans didn’t just share Africa with sapiens, but have left traces in some modern Homo sapiens genomes, as we’ll see.

Broken Hill

brokenhillSkull found at Broken Hill, Zambia, in 1921. Once known as Rhodesian Man. Homo heidelbergensis (or is H. heidebergensis just a wastebasket category?)  Looks like he’s (yes, he’s probably male) on the road to Homo sapiens: heavily built, with massive brow ridges, but a flat face and relatively large brain. He could be significantly younger than 300,000 years ago.

Homo heidelbergensis

By 600 million years ago we’re finding people who don’t fit comfortably into Homo erectus. A jawbone from around this time was unearthed in Germany, near Heidelberg, in 1907, and is sometimes assigned to a new species, Homo heidelbergensis. Another find from the same period, often assigned to the same species, comes from Bodo, Ethiopia (below).

bodo

This guy clearly isn’t modern Homo sapiens, but his brain is starting to get out of the Homo erectus range, and his browridge is a double arch, rather than an erectus-style straight bar. He’s also got cut marks on skull and face, from someone “defleshing” him.

For a long time, we could tell a story about how Homo heidelbergensis was the ancestor to both modern humans and Neanderthals, but the latest DNA calibration suggests the split may go back earlier. We’re not really sure that all the specimens assigned to heidelbergensis really were one species.

Florisbad

florisbad259 thousand years ago. Compare this skull (admittedly fragmentary), discovered at Florisbad, South Africa (1932), with the Broken Hill skull, from not too far away (Zambia). Florisbad wouldn’t be mistaken for a modern human, but it’s clearly moving in that direction compared to Broken Hill. Reflecting this intermediate state, Florisbad is sometimes assigned to Homo heidelbergensis, sometimes to archaic Homo sapiens, and sometimes to its own species, Homo helmei. The simplest explanation would be that something like Broken Hill evolved into something like Florisbad. Could be. But the story might be more complicated. The time interval between the two is short (40 thousand years), and we’re not even sure about the date for Broken Hill; he might not be as old as we thought. So there might have been multiple species of humans coexisting in Africa at this point, just as there were still other human species outside Africa. There is some genetic evidence that non-sapiens humans didn’t just share Africa with sapiens, but have left traces in some modern Homo sapiens genomes, as we’ll see.

Broken Hill

brokenhillSkull found at Broken Hill, Zambia, in 1921. Once known as Rhodesian Man. Homo heidelbergensis (or is H. heidebergensis just a wastebasket category?)  Looks like he’s (yes, he’s probably male) on the road to Homo sapiens: heavily built, with massive brow ridges, but a flat face and relatively large brain. He could be significantly younger than 300,000 years ago.

Homo heidelbergensis

By 600 million years ago we’re finding people who don’t fit comfortably into Homo erectus. A jawbone from around this time was unearthed in Germany, near Heidelberg, in 1907, and is sometimes assigned to a new species, Homo heidelbergensis. Another find from the same period, often assigned to the same species, comes from Bodo, Ethiopia.

bodo

This guy clearly isn’t modern Homo sapiens, but his brain is starting to get out of the Homo erectus range, and his browridge is a double arch, rather than an erectus-style straight bar. He’s also got cut marks on skull and face, from someone “defleshing” him.

For a long time, we could tell a story about how Homo heidelbergensis was the ancestor to both modern humans and Neanderthals, but the latest DNA calibration suggests the split may go back earlier. We’re not really sure that all the specimens assigned to heidelbergensis really were one species.