Homo rhodesiensis

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Homo rhodesiensis
Temporal range: Middle Pleistocene 0.6–0.2 Ma
Rhodesian Man.jpg
Kabwe skull (1922 photograph)
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Primates
Suborder: Haplorhini
Infraorder: Simiiformes
Family: Hominidae
Subfamily: Homininae
Tribe: Hominini
Genus: Homo
Species: H. rhodesiensis
Binomial name
Homo rhodesiensis
Woodward, 1921

Homo rhodesiensis is the species name proposed by Arthur Smith Woodward (1921) to classifiy Kabwe 1 (the "Kabwe skull" or "Broken Hill skull", also "Rhodesian Man"), a fossil recovered from a cave at Broken Hill, or Kabwe, Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia).[1] The fossil has been dated to the late-Middle Pleistocene, between roughly 300,000 and 125,000 years ago.

H. rhodesiensis is now mostly considered a synonym of Homo heidelbergensis, or possibly an African subspecies of Homo heidelbergensis sensu lato, understood as a polymorphic species dispersed throughout Africa and Eurasia with a range spanning the Middle Pleistocene (c. 0.8–0.12 mya).[2] Other designations such as Homo sapiens arcaicus[3] and Homo sapiens rhodesiensis[4] have also been proposed. White et al. (2003) suggested Rhodesian Man as ancestral to Homo sapiens idaltu (Herto Man).[5]

The derivation of Homo sapiens from Homo rhodesiensis has often been proposed, but is obscured by a fossil gap during 400–260 kya.[6]

Kabwe skull[edit]

Replica of the skull
Reconstruction of Homo rhodesiensis based on the Broken Hill cranium, by Élisabeth Daynès (2010), Museum of Human Evolution, Burgos.
Interpretation by Amédée Forestier (1922)

Kabwe 1, also called the Broken Hill skull, was assigned by Arthur Smith Woodward in 1921 as the type specimen for Homo rhodesiensis; most contemporary scientists forego the taxon "rhodesiensis" altogether and assign it to Homo heidelbergensis.[7] The cranium was discovered in Mutwe Wa Nsofu Area in a lead and zinc mine in Broken Hill, Northern Rhodesia (now Kabwe, Zambia) on June 17, 1921[8] by Tom Zwiglaar, a Swiss miner. In addition to the cranium, an upper jaw from another individual, a sacrum, a tibia, and two femur fragments were also found. The skull was dubbed "Rhodesian Man" at the time of the find, but is now commonly referred to as the Broken Hill skull or the Kabwe cranium.

The association between the bones is unclear, but the tibia and femur fossils are usually associated with the skull. Rhodesian Man is dated to be between 300,000 and 125,000 years old.[citation needed] Cranial capacity of the Broken Hill skull has been estimated at 1,230 cm³.[9] Bada, & al., (1974) published the direct date of 110 ka for this specimen measured by aspartic acid racemisation.[10][11] The destruction of the paleoanthropological site has made layered dating impossible.

The Homo rhodesiensis type fossil's massive skull suggests an extremely robust individual with the comparatively largest brow-ridges of any known hominin. It was described as having a broad face similar to that of Homo neanderthalensis (i.e. large nasal bones and thick protruding brow ridges). Consequently, researchers came up with interpretations such as "African Neanderthal".[citation needed] However, with regard to the skull's extreme robustness, recent research[citation needed] has highlighted several intermediate features between modern Homo sapiens and Neanderthal. The skull has cavities in ten of the upper teeth and is considered one of the oldest known occurrences of cavities. Pitting indicates significant infection before death and implies that the cause of death may have been due to dental disease infection or possibly chronic ear infection.[citation needed]

The skull is kept in the Natural History Museum, London.[12] There is a replica in the Museum in Livingstone, Zambia.

Related fossils[edit]

A number of morphologically-comparable fossil remains came to light in East Africa (Bodo, Ndutu, Eyasi, Ileret) and North Africa (Salé, Rabat, Dar-es-Soltane, Djbel Irhoud, Sidi Aberrahaman, Tighenif) during the 20th century.[13] The Saldanha cranium, found in 1953 in South Africa was subject to at least three taxonomic revisions from 1955 to 1996.[14]

Both Homo sapiens and Neanderthals are derived from H. heidelbergensis, or possibly from a transitional stage between H. antecessor and H. heidelbergensis near the beginning of the Middle Pleistocene.[15]

Bodo Cranium[edit]

The 600,000 year old [16] Bodo cranium was found in 1976 by members of an expedition led by Jon Kalb at Bodo D'ar in the Awash River valley of Ethiopia.[17] Although the skull is most similar to those of Kabwe, Woodward's nomenclature was discontinued and its discoverers attributed it to H. heidelbergensis.[18] It has features, that represent a transition between Homo ergaster/erectus and Homo sapiens.[19]

Ndutu cranium[edit]

Another specimen,[20] "the hominid from Lake Ndutu" in northern Tanzania, around 400,000 years old. In 1976 R.J.Clarke classified it as Homo erectus and it has generally been viewed as such since, although points of similarity to H. sapiens have also been recognized. After comparative studies with similar finds in Africa allocation to an African subspecies of H. sapiens seems most appropriate.[21] An indirect cranial capacity estimate suggests 1100 ml. Its supratoral sulcus morphology and the presence of protuberance as suggested by Philip Rightmire "give the Nudutu occiput an appearance which is also unlike that of Homo erectus", but Stinger (1986) pointed out that a thickened iliac pillar is typical for Homo erectus.[22] In a 1989 publication Clarke concludes: "It is assigned to archaic Homo sapiens on the basis of its expanded parietal and occipital regions of the brain".[23]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "GBIF 787018738 Fossil of Homo rhodesiensis Woodward, 1921". GBIF org. Retrieved December 9, 2015. 
  2. ^ Mounier, Aurélien; Condemi, Silvana; Manzi, Giorgio (April 20, 2011). "The Stem Species of Our Species: A Place for the Archaic Human Cranium from Ceprano, Italy". PLoS ONE. PLOS ONE. 6 (4): e18821. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0018821. PMC 3080388Freely accessible. PMID 21533096. Retrieved December 10, 2015.  "Ceprano clusters in our analysis with other European, African and Asian Mid-Pleistocene specimens – such as Petralona, Dali, Kabwe, Jinniu Shan, Steinheim, and SH5 – furnishing a rather plesiomorphic phenetic link among them. On the basis of this morphological affinity, it seems appropriate to group Ceprano with these fossils, and consider them as a single taxon. The available nomen for this putative species is H. heidelbergensis, whose distinctiveness stands on the retention of a number of archaic traits combined with features that are more derived and independent from any Neandertal ancestry. [...] This result would suggest that H. ergaster survived as a distinct species until 1 Ma, and would discard the validity of the species H. cepranensis [...] Thus we can include the so-called “Ante-Neandertals” from Europe in the same taxonomical unit with other Mid-Pleistocene samples from Africa and continental Asia. Combining the results of the two approaches of our phenetic analysis, Ceprano should be reasonably accommodated as part of a Mid-Pleistocene human taxon H. heidelbergensis, which would include European, African, and Asian specimens. Moreover, the combination of archaic and derived features exhibited by the Italian specimen represents a “node” connecting the different poles of such a polymorphic humanity."
  3. ^ H. James Birx (10 June 2010). 21st Century Anthropology: A Reference Handbook. SAGE Publications. p. 48. ISBN 978-1-4522-6630-5. 
  4. ^ Bernard Wood (31 March 2011). Wiley-Blackwell Encyclopedia of Human Evolution, 2 Volume Set. John Wiley & Sons. pp. 761–762. ISBN 978-1-4443-4247-5. 
  5. ^ White, Tim D.; Asfaw, B.; DeGusta, D.; Gilbert, H.; Richards, G. D.; Suwa, G.; Howell, F. C. (2003). "Pleistocene Homo sapiens from Middle Awash, Ethiopia". Nature. 423 (6491): 742–747. doi:10.1038/nature01669. PMID 12802332. 
  6. ^ Hublin, J.-J. (2013), "The Middle Pleistocene Record. On the Origin of Neandertals, Modern Humans and Others" in: R. David Begun (ed.), A Companion to Paleoanthropology, John Wiley, pp. 517-537 (summary 529–531). "Most, if not all, of the African specimens assigned to H. rhodesiensis (cf heidelbergensis) seem to predate the divergence between H. neanderthalensis and H. sapiens [viz., assumed at 0.5 Mya prior to the revision by Meyer et al. 2016]. However, a gap in the fossil record, possibly between 400 and 260 ka, blurs the transition or punctuation event that separated H. rhodesiensis and H. sapiens." (p. 532).
  7. ^ Hublin, J.-J. (2013), "The Middle Pleistocene Record. On the Origin of Neandertals, Modern Humans and Others" in: R. David Begun (ed.), A Companion to Paleoanthropology, John Wiley, pp. 517-537 (p. 523).
  8. ^ "Zambia resolute on recovering Broken Hill Man from Britain – Zambia Daily Mail". Daily-mail.co.zm. 2015-01-10. Retrieved 2018-06-04. 
  9. ^ Rightmire, G. Philip. The Evolution of Homo erectus: Comparative Anatomical Studies of an Extinct Human Species Cambridge University Press, 1993. ISBN 0-521-44998-7, ISBN 978-0-521-44998-4.
  10. ^ Bada, Jeffrey L., Roy A. Schroeder, Reiner Protsch, and Rainer Berger. Concordance of Collagen-Based Radiocarbon and Aspartic-Acid Racemization Ages PNAS abstract URL.
  11. ^ "Amino Acid Racemization Dating of Fossil Bones". Arjournals.annualreviews.org. Retrieved 2018-06-04. 
  12. ^ "Collections - Natural History Museum". www.nhm.ac.uk. 
  13. ^ "The evolution and development of cranial form in Homo" (PDF). Department of Anthropology, Harvard University. Retrieved December 9, 2015. 
  14. ^ "Wiley-Blackwell Encyclopedia of Human Evolution, 2 Volume Set". Google Books. Retrieved December 9, 2015. 
  15. ^ Matthias Meyer, Juan-Luis Arsuaga, Cesare de Filippo, Sarah Nagel, Ayinuer Aximu-Petri, Birgit Nickel, Ignacio Martínez, Ana Gracia, José María Bermúdez de Castro, Eudald Carbonell, Bence Viola, Janet Kelso, Kay Prüfer & Svante Pääbo, "Nuclear DNA sequences from the Middle Pleistocene Sima de los Huesos hominins", Nature 531, pages 504–507 (24 March 2016), doi:10.1038/nature17405. Ewen Callaway, "Oldest ancient-human DNA details dawn of Neanderthals" Sequence of 430,000-year-old DNA pushes back divergence of humans and Neanderthals", Nature News, 14 March 2016.
  16. ^ "Bodo – Paleoanthropology site information". Fossilized org. Retrieved December 9, 2015. 
  17. ^ "Bodo Skull and Jaw". Skulls Unlimited. Retrieved December 9, 2015. 
  18. ^ "Bodo fossil". Britannica Encyclopedia. Retrieved December 9, 2015. 
  19. ^ "Meet Bodo and Herto There is some discussion around the species assigned to Bodo:". Nutcracker Man. April 7, 2015. Retrieved December 9, 2015. 
  20. ^ Rightmire, G. Philip (2005). "The Lake Ndutu cranium and early Homo sapiens in Africa". American Journal of Physical Anthropology. 61 (2): 245–254. doi:10.1002/ajpa.1330610214. PMID 6410925. 
  21. ^ Rightmire GP (June 3, 1983). "The Lake Ndutu cranium and early Homo sapiens in Africa". Am. J. Phys. Anthropol. 61 (2): 245–54. doi:10.1002/ajpa.1330610214. PMID 6410925. 
  22. ^ The Evolution of Homo erectus: Comparative Anatomical Studies of an Extinct Human Species By G. Philip Rightmire Published by Cambridge University Press, 1993 ISBN 0-521-44998-7, ISBN 978-0-521-44998-4 [1]
  23. ^ "The Ndutu cranium and the origin of Homo sapiens – R. J. Clarke" (PDF). American Museum of Natural History. November 27, 1989. Retrieved December 9, 2015. 


  • Woodward, Arthur Smith (1921). "A New Cave Man from Rhodesia, South Africa". Nature. 108 (2716): 371–372. doi:10.1038/108371a0. 
  • Singer Robert R. and J. Wymer (1968). "Archaeological Investigation at the Saldanha Skull Site in South Africa". The South African Archaeological Bulletin. The South African Archaeological Bulletin, Vol. 23, No. 91. 23 (3): 63–73. doi:10.2307/3888485. JSTOR 3888485. 
  • Murrill, Rupert I. (1975). "A comparison of the Rhodesian and Petralona upper jaws in relation to other Pleistocene hominids". Zeitschrift für Morphologie und Anthropologie. 66: 176–187. .
  • Murrill, Rupert Ivan (1981). Ed. Charles C. Thomas, ed. Petralona Man. A Descriptive and Comparative Study, with New Information on Rhodesian Man. Springfield, Illinois: Thomas. ISBN 0-398-04550-X. 
  • Rightmire, G. Philip (2005). "The Lake Ndutu cranium and early Homo sapiens in Africa". American Journal of Physical Anthropology. 61 (2): 245–254. doi:10.1002/ajpa.1330610214. PMID 6410925. .
  • Asfaw, Berhane (2005). "A new hominid parietal from Bodo, middle Awash Valley, Ethiopia". American Journal of Physical Anthropology. 61 (3): 367–371. doi:10.1002/ajpa.1330610311. PMID 6412559. .

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