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, which was first discovered in 2015, significantly alters its position in the overall pattern of human evolution.
Furthermore, it raises significant questions regarding the pattern of human evolution more generally.
Remains of individuals who died over 2 million years ago would be expected to have undergone a high degree of fossilization (i.e., mineralization).
Now, one of three articles on reports that radiometric dating of the cave sediments within which the bones were found as well as of three teeth indicates that this species existed much more recently, up to at least between 236,000 and 335,000 years ago.
Homo heidelbergensis is an extinct species of the genus Homo that lived in Africa, Europe and western Asia between 600,000 and 200,000 years ago.
The skulls of this species share features with both Homo erectus and anatomically modern Homo sapiens; its brain was nearly as large as that of Homo sapiens.
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Since then the molecular data and a steady trickle of new hominin fossil finds have pushed the earliest putative hominin ancestry back in time somewhat, to perhaps 8–6 mya., based on a cranium from of Chad in north-central Africa.
In contrast, a majority of paleoanthropologists, wishing to bring the study of hominins into line with that of other mammals, prefer to assign to to calculate how long species had been separated from a common ancestor.
The molecular clock concept is based on an assumed regularity in the accumulation of tiny changes in the genetic codes of humans and other organisms.
The does not indicate with certainty if this species was at all terrestrial, although the fairly forward position of its foramen magnum (the hole through which the spinal cord exits the braincase) may suggest a habitually upright posture.
The most remarkable aspect of this skull is the broadness and flatness of its face—something previously associated with much more recent hominins—in conjunction with a smaller, ape-sized braincase.