The Elements of Evolution (61-16-2) Homo rhodesiensis

Homo rhodesiensis

Tom Zwiglaar, a Swiss miner, found a partial hominin skull and other bone fragments in 1921 while working a lead and zinc mine in northern Rhodesia (now Kabwe, Zambia). The skull was dubbed Rhodesian Man at the time of the find.

Rhodesian Man got dated 300–125 TYA, and estimated to be a young adult, with heavy tooth wear from eating abrasive foods: grains, tubers, and rootstalks. The teeth show the oldest occurrence of cavities for a hominin. This young Rhodesian Man died of either a dental infection or chronic ear infection.

Similar remains of the same or earlier time have been found in faraway places: in east Africa (Bodo, in Ethiopia) and the southwest tip of South Africa (Saldanha).

Tools found at Rhodesia were made of chert and quartz, worked on both sides. A granite ball was shaped into a sphere, which might have been used for grinding food.

The finds at Bodo and Saldanha also included an assemblage of tools, including bifacial hand axes and other specialized implements. Cut marks on the Bodo skull indicate that it was defleshed after it died, though for what purpose is uncertain.

In several respects H. rhodesiensis resembles H. heidelbergensis, which is where Rhodesian Man has been lumped.