Homo heidelbergensis, "Heidelberg Man", named after the University of Heidelberg is an extinct, potentially distinct species of the genus Homo (Homo is the genus that includes modern humans and their close relatives) which may be the direct ancestor of both Homo neanderthalensis in Europe and the modern Homo sapiens, found in Africa.. H. heidelbergensis stone tool technology was very close to that of the Acheulean tools used by Homo erectus. Acheulean tools are the archaeological industry of stone tool manufacture associated with early humans. Homo antecessor (Homo antecessor is an extinct hominin species) is likely a direct ancestor living 750,000 years ago evolving into Homo heidelbergensis appearing in the fossil record living roughly 600,000 to 250,000 years ago through various areas of Europe. Hominids are the biological family of which humans are a member. Scientists believe that Homo heidelbergensis descended from Homo ergaster, another early hominid. Homo heidelbergensis appears to have been one of the first hominids to venture out of Africa and into Europe, following the tracks of Homo erectus, and archaeological digs in several regions of Europe suggest that these hominids formed large social groups. These digs have uncovered large numbers of tools, along with the evidence of hunting, the use of fire, and burial practices.
The first fossil discovery of this species was made on October 21, 1907, and came from Mauer, Germany, where the workman Daniel Hartmann spotted a jaw in a sandpit. The jaw was in good condition except for the missing premolar teeth, which were eventually found near the jaw. The workman gave it to Professor Otto Schoetensack, a German industrialist from the University of Heidelberg, who identified and named the fossil. The next H. heidelbergensis remains were found in Steinheim an der Murr, Germany. Homo heidelbergensis remains were found in Mauer near Heidelberg, Germany and then later in Arago, France and Petralona, Greece. A partial leg bone dated to between 478,000 and 524,000 years old was found in 1994. H. heidelbergensis was the early proto-human species that occupied both France and Great Britain at that time. Major portion of the known H. heidelbergensis remains have been obtained from this site from Northern Spain.
The morphology of the outer and middle ear suggests they had an auditory sensitivity similar to modern humans and very different from chimpanzees. Based on the research did by Professor Lee R. Berger of the University of Witwatersrand, numerous fossil bones indicate some populations of Heidelbergensis were "giants" routinely over 2.13 m (7 ft) tall and inhabited South Africa between 0.5 million and 300,000 years ago.? H. antecessor and H. heidelbergensis both are likely to be moved down from the morphologically very similar Homo ergaster from Africa. Since, H. heidelbergensis had a larger brain-case with a typical cranial volume 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. Over a period of time, Homo heidelbergensis evolved into two new species; modern humans, and the Neanderthals. Neanderthals are an extinct species of the genus Homo, which includes humans and many of our ancestors and their evolutionary spinoffs. Modern humans apparently supplanted the now-extinct Neanderthals; DNA studies on both species indicate that the two were certainly distinct from each other, although related through their common Homo heidelbergensis ancestors.
The recent findings in Spain claim that H. heidelbergensis may have been the first species of the Homo genus to bury their dead, even offering gifts. Some experts believe that H. heidelbergensis, like its descendant H. neanderthalensis, acquired a archaic form of language. Other than stone tools, there were no forms of art or sophisticated artifacts have been uncovered, although red ochre, a mineral that can be used to create a red pigment which is useful as a paint, has been found at Terra Amata excavations in the south of France. Terra Amata is an archeological site. H. heidelbergensis were probably able to differentiate between many different sounds. Dental wear analysis suggests they were as likely to be right handed as modern people. H. heidelbergensis was a close relative of Homo ergaster. H. ergaster is assumed to be the first hominin to vocalize and that as H. heidelbergensis developed more sophisticated culture proceeded from this point.
Different kinds of wooden projectile spears which are 400,000-year-old were found at in northern Germany. These are assumed to have been made by Homo erectus or Homo heidelbergensis. Usually, projectile weapons are more commonly associated with Homo Sapiens. The shortage of projectile weaponry is an indication of different nourishment methods, rather than inferior technology or abilities. The situation is identical to that of native New Zealand modern Homo Sapiens, who also rarely threw objects, but used spears and clubs instead. Cut marks found on the bones of wild deer, elephants, rhinoceroses and horses shows that they were butchered. Some of the animals weighed as much as 700 kg (1,500 lb) or possibly larger. Present extinct wild animals such as mammoths, European lions and Irish elk wandered the European continent during that era.
Due to the spread of H. heidelbergensis out of Africa and into Europe, the two populations were mostly isolated. Neanderthals diverged from Homo heidelbergensis perhaps some 300,000 years ago in Europe and H. sapiens probably diverged between 200,000 and 100,000 years ago in Africa. Homo neanderthalensis had most of the features of Homo heidelbergensis after its divergent evolution. Though shorter, Neanderthals were stronger, had large brow-ridges, a slightly protruding face and lack of prominent chin. They also had a larger brain than all other hominins. Homo sapiens, on the other hand, have the smallest brows of any known hominin, are tall and lanky, and have a flat face with a protruding chin. H. sapienses have a larger brain than Homo heidelbergensis, and a smaller brain than H. neanderthalensis, on average. To date, H. sapiens is the only known hominin with a high forehead, flat face, and thin, flat brows.