• The Pleistocene, often called the Ice Age, was marked by
advances and retreats of massive continental
• At least 15 major and 50 minor glacial advances have been
documented in Europe.
• All life on the planet was impacted by changing weather patterns
• Hominins were impacted as the climate, flora, and animal life
• Middle Pleistocene • The portion of the Pleistocene epoch beginning 780,000 ya and
ending 125,000 ya.
• Late Pleistocene • The portion of the Pleistocene epoch beginning 125,000 ya and
ending approximately 10,000 ya.
• Climatic intervals when continental ice sheets cover much
of the northern continents.
• Glaciations equate to colder temperatures in northern
latitudes and more arid conditions in southern latitudes,
most notably in Africa.
• Climatic intervals when continental ice sheets are
retreating, eventually becoming much reduced in size.
• Interglacials in northern latitudes are associated with
warmer temperatures, while in southern latitudes the
climate becomes wetter.
Changing Pleistocene Environments in Africa
Changing Pleistocene Environments in Eurasia
• Changing migration routes.
Homo heidelbergensis • Widely distributed, Middle Pleistocene, premodern human
• Found in Africa, Asia and Europe (first time Europe is permanently occupied)
• Replacing earlier hominins in their previous habitats (or coexisting as in Southeast Asia)
• Most likely the evolutionary ancestor to Homo sapiens and Neandertals
• Exhibit several H. erectus characteristics: • Large face, projected brows, low forehead, and thick cranial vault
• New Features: • Increased brain size, rounded braincase, vertical nose, and reduced occipital
African Homo heidelbergensis finds
• The Kabwe (Broken Hill)
skull from Zambia. • Clear mix of primitive and
• Note the robust browridges.
• Bodo Cranium • The earliest evidence of Homo
heidelbergensis in Africa.
• Possibly defleshed with stone
• Gran Dolina finds in northern Spain may represent the ealiest H.
heidelbergensis, possibly dating to 850,000 ya
• Atapuerca site of Sima de los Huesos remains of at least 28
individuals date to 600,000-530,000 ya
• This is 80% of all Middle Pleistocene hominin remains found in the world,
crucial site for further study
• May be the earliest site of intentional disposal of the dead
Asia • Dali fossils display H. erectus and H. sapiens traits, cranial
capacity of 1120 cm3
• Jinniushan, northeast China, 200,000 ya individual with modern
features and cranial capacity appx 1260 cm3
• Many Chinese researchers have argued evidence suggests
separate evolutionary linage of Chinese specimens to modern
• Debate remains if these specimins should be classified as H.
heidelbergensis or H. sapien
Middle Pleistocene Culture
• The Acheulian technology of H. erectus carried into
the Middle Pleistocene with little change until near
the end of the period, when it became slightly more
• Some later premodern humans in Africa and Europe
invented the Levallois for controlling flake size and
• This suggests increased cognitive abilities in later
The Levallois Technique
Middle Pleistocene Culture
• Premodern human populations built temporary shelters
evidenced by concentrations of bones, stones, and artifacts
• May have increased their use of caves as seen by large
deposits of bone and cultural remains in many areas.
• Chinese archaeologists insist that many Middle Pleistocene
sites in China contain evidence of human-controlled fire. Some
evidence from France, Germany and Hungary may also
Middle Pleistocene Culture • Evidence shows different food sources were exploited, fruits, vegetables, fish, seeds, nuts, and bird eggs, seasonally.
• Also marine life, new innovation in human evolution.
• There has been little evidence supporting widely practiced
advanced hunting at this time.
• However, in 1995 wood spears were found at the
Schöningen site in Germany provisionally dated to 400,000
to 300,000 ya • These were most likely used as throwing spears to hunt large animals.
• The bones of numerous horses were also recovered at Schöningen.
Neandertals of the Late Pleistocene
• Neandertals are premodern humans that are increasingly placed by researchers into the classification of a subspeices of H. Sapien, • Homo sapiens neanderthalensis with modern humans split of as
H. sapiens sapiens
• Many disagree with seperating them form the H. sapien species due to new genetic findings
• Brain Size: Larger than H. sapiens today (1520 cm3 compared
to 1300-1400 cm3 (perhaps adapted to cold climate).
• Cranium: Large, long, low, and bulging at the sides, occipital
bun, with large brow ridge.
• Structure: Robust, barrel-chested, and powerfully muscled with
shorter limbs than modern H. sapiens.
Important Neanderthal Finds
• La Chapelle-aux-Saints Skull • Outlier individual, especially robust
• Interpritation led to early views of
• Krapina Cranium
• Possibly oldest fully Neanderthal
• Oldest burial on record
• St. Césaire
• St. Césaire, among the “last” Neandertals
• In Shanidar cave, in the Zagros Mountains of northeastern Iraq, fieldworkers found partial skeletons of nine individuals, four of them deliberately buried.
• Shanidar 1 is a skeleton of a male who lived to be 30 to 45 years old, a very old age for prehistoric human.
• His height is estimated at 5 feet 7 inches, and his cranial capacity is 1,600 cm3.
• He had injuries that made it impossible to perform normal activities leading researches to believe he must have been helped by others.
• Could he represent
compassion for the
Culture of Neandertals
• Neandertals improved previous techniques by inventing a new variation, Mousterian.
• They trimmed a flint nodule around the edges to form a disk-shaped core.
• Each time they struck the edge, they produced a flake, continuing until the core became too small and was discarded.
• They then trimmed the flakes into various forms, such as scrapers, points, and knives.
• Remains of animal bones demonstrate that
Neandertals were successful hunters.
• Used close-proximity spears for hunting (spear
thrower and bow and arrow weren’t invented until the
• Patterns of trauma in Neandertal remains match
those of contemporary rodeo performers, indicating
close proximity to prey.
Speech and Symbolic Behavior
• Prevailing consensus has been that Neandertals were
capable of articulate speech.
• Same hyoid bone and FOXP2 gene
• Even if Neandertals did speak, they did not have the
same language capabilities of modern Homo sapiens.
• Neanderthals buried their dead.
• Their burials included grave goods like animal bones and
• They placed the bodies of their dead in a flexed position.
• A cultural period usually associated with modern humans,
but also found with some Neandertals, and distinguished
by technological innovation in various stone tool
• Best known from western Europe, similar industries are
also known from central and eastern Europe and Africa.
• Pertaining to an Upper Paleolithic industry found in France and
Spain, containing blade tools and associated with Neandertals.
• Suggestive of some cultural hybridization
The 3rd Upper Paleolithic Hominin
• Denisova Cave, southern Siberia
• Finger bone and tooth dated to 50,000-30,000 ya
• Mitochondrial DNA shows significant genetic distance
from both Homo sapiens and Neandertals
• This means a third Hominin existed contemporaneously
with Neandertals and modern humans!
Molecular Connections: The Genetic Evidence
• Tremendous advances in past 15 years in sequencing
Neandertal mitochondrial and nuclear DNA
• Modern human populations outside of Africa possess1-
4% of distinctive Neandertal DNA
• Melanesian populations contain 4-5% of distinctive
• Suggests interbreeding of premodern and modern