Monday, August 9, 2010

Heidelberg Man

Heidelberg Man, also known as Homo heidelbergensis, is an archaic type of Homo sapiens (an extinct species of the genus Homo) which may be the direct ancestor of both Homo neanderthalensis in Europe and Cro-magnon. The best evidence found for these hominin date between 600,000 and 400,000 years ago. Heidelberg Man stone tool technology was very close to that of the Acheulean tools used by Homo erectus.

It was discovered in 1907 by gravel pit workers near Heidelberg in Germany. The estimated age of Heidelberg Man is between 400,000 and 700,000 years. This find was a lower jaw with a receding chin and all its teeth. Although the jaw is large and robust, like that of Homo erectus, the teeth are at the small end of the erectus range.

Homo heidelbergensis is probably descended from the morphologically very similar Homo ergaster from Africa. But since Heidelberg Man had a larger cranium (cranial capacity of 1100–1400 cm³ overlapping the 1350 cm³ average of modern humans) and had more advanced tools and behavior, it has been given a separate species classification. The species was tall, 1.8 m (6 ft) on average, and more muscular than modern humans.

Recent findings in Atapuerca, Spain, suggest that Homo heidelbergensis may have been the first species of the Homo genus to bury their dead, even offering gifts. Some experts believe that Heidelberg Man, like its descendant H. neanderthalensis, had the brain capacity to produce and understand a type of language. Large temporal and frontal lobes are essential to produce and understand spoken language, and Heidelberg Man's were large enough. Well finished stone tools were uncovered at Terra Amata excavations in the south of France, along with red ochre, a mineral that can be used to create a red pigment which is useful as a paint.