Temporal range: Middle Pleistocene 0.6–0.2 Ma
|Kabwe skull (1922 photograph)|
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). 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). Other designations such as Homo sapiens arcaicus and Homo sapiens rhodesiensis have also been proposed. White et al. (2003) suggested Rhodesian Man as ancestral to Homo sapiens idaltu (Herto Man).
The derivation of Homo sapiens from Homo rhodesiensis has often been proposed, but is obscured by a fossil gap during 400–260 kya.
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. 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 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. Cranial capacity of the Broken Hill skull has been estimated at 1,230 cm³. Bada, & al., (1974) published the direct date of 110 ka for this specimen measured by aspartic acid racemisation. 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". However, with regard to the skull's extreme robustness, recent research 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.
The skull is kept in the Natural History Museum, London. There is a replica in the Museum in Livingstone, Zambia.
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. The Saldanha cranium, found in 1953 in South Africa was subject to at least three taxonomic revisions from 1955 to 1996.
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.
The 600,000 year old  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. Although the skull is most similar to those of Kabwe, Woodward's nomenclature was discontinued and its discoverers attributed it to H. heidelbergensis. It has features, that represent a transition between Homo ergaster/erectus and Homo sapiens.
Another specimen, "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. 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. 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".
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- 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 . 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."
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