Homo heidelbergensis is an extinct species of the genus Homo which may be the direct ancestor of both Homo neanderthalensis in Europe and Homo sapiens. The fossils have been dated to between 600,000 and 400,000 years ago. The tools used were very similar to those of the Acheulean tools used by Homo erectus.
• Heidelberg Man • Boxgrove Man
600,000 to 400,000 years ago
Tool Maker, Large Brain,Tall, Robust
Homo heidelbergensis Cranium Sima de los Huesos, Atapuerca (Spain)
It has been argued that Homo heidelbergensis and the older Homo antecessor are likely to be descended from Homo ergaster from Africa, based on the close morphology. However, because Homo heidelbergensis had a larger average brain capacity than modern humans and used advanced tools, it has achieved its own species classification. Homo heidelbergensis was taller - averaging 7 ft - and more robust than modern humans [Mounier 2009].
Regarding social behaviour, Homo heidelbergensis may have been the first species to bury their dead, based on 28 skeletons found at Atapuerca, Spain. Evidence suggests the development and use of a proto-language. The discovery of red ochre at Terra Amata indicates personal adornment. Dental analysis suggests they may have been right-handed. Homo heidelbergensis was a sophisticated hunter, suggested by wooden projectile spears found at Schoningen in Germany attributed to this species.
The first Homo heidelbergensis fossil discovery of this species was made in 1907 by Daniel Hartmann at Mauer in Germany. Other fossils have since been discovered in France, Greece, Italy, Spain and China. In 1994, a discovery was made in England at the Boxgrove Quarry site, known as 'Boxgrove Man'.
In terms of the evolutionary tree, with the spread of Homo heidelbergensis out of Africa and into Europe, the climate at this time would have caused a divergence: Homo neanderthalensis diverged from Homo heidelbergensis probably some 300,000 years ago in Europe; Homo sapiens probably diverged between 200,000 and 100,000 years ago in Africa.