Florisbad Skull

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Florisbad Skull
Florisbad-Helmei-Homo heidelbergensis.jpg
Common name Florisbad Skull
Species Archaic Homo sapiens
or Homo heidelbergensis
possibly Homo helmei
Age 259,000 yrs. old
Place discovered Florisbad archaeological and paleontological site, South Africa
Date discovered 1932
Discovered by Prof. T.F. Dreyer

The Florisbad Skull was originally discovered by T. F. Dreyer at the Florisbad site in 1932. Florisbad is a Middle Stone Age locality in Free State Province, South Africa. Florisbad ranks amongst the country's more important Middle Stone Age fossil localities because of the discovery of the largely intact archaic Homo Sapiens cranium and associated fauna.[1]


The Florisbad Skull had previously been classified as Homo helmei. This specimen was relatively the same size as modern humans, with a slightly larger brain volume of 1,400 cm3. They are associated with the start of the most important revolutions in human technology.[2] The skull was also found with Middle Stone Age tools.[3]

The Florisbad skull comprises the right side of the face, most of the frontal bone, and some of the maxilla, along with portions of the roof and sidewalls. A single, upper right, third molar was also found with the adult skull. In 1996, enamel samples from the tooth went through the electron spin resonance technique which allowed researchers to date the skull to around 259,000 years old.[4]

The skull also showed extensive porotic hyperostosis as well as a large number of healed lesions, including pathological drainage or vascular tracts. There are also a couple of large puncture marks and scratch-like marks which may reflect carnivore activity[4]

Classification and dating[edit]

Dreyer classified the Florisbad Skull as Homo helmei to mark its distinctiveness from Homo sapiens fossils. It is now generally either described as "archaic H. sapiens" or assigned to H. heidelbergensis. It has been directly dated by electron spin resonance dating to around between 294 and 224 ka (259 +/- 35 ka).[5] It could, however, simply be an intermediate form between H. heidelbergensis and H. sapiens, in which case retention of the H. helmei classification might be appropriate.[5]

Associated fauna[edit]

The Florisbad site has also produced a large and diverse fauna that is associated with the Florisbad cranium over several decades of research. The assemblage including micro-vertebrates from springhares, rabbits, rodents and reptiles has informed researchers on the paleoenvironment of the interior of South Africa in the Middle Pleistocene. The large mammal component of the site also suggests an open, grassland existed with a body of water in the immediate vicinity[1] Although many specimens are dated by comparisons of faunal assemblages, this method does not prove to have accurate chronological resolution for much of the last million years.[6]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Lewis, Patrick J.; Brink, James S.; Kennedy, Alicia M.; Campbell, Timothy L. "Examination of the Florisbad microvertebrates". South African Journal of Science. 107 (7/8). doi:10.4102/sajs.v107i7/8.613. 
  2. ^ "Homo helmei". Bradshaw Foundation. Retrieved 2015-11-18. 
  3. ^ Rightmire, G. Philip (2009-09-22). "Middle and later Pleistocene hominins in Africa and Southwest Asia". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 106 (38): 16046–16050. doi:10.1073/pnas.0903930106. ISSN 0027-8424. PMC 2752549Freely accessible. PMID 19581595. 
  4. ^ a b Schwartz, Jeffrey H.; Tattersall, Ian (2005-03-11). The Human Fossil Record, Craniodental Morphology of Genus Homo (Africa and Asia). John Wiley & Sons. ISBN 9780471326441. 
  5. ^ a b Grün, Rainer; Brink, James S.; Spooner, Nigel A.; Taylor, Lois; Stringer, Chris B.; Franciscus, Robert G.; Murray, Andrew S. (1996-08-08). "Direct dating of Florisbad hominid". Nature. 382 (6591): 500–501. doi:10.1038/382500a0. 
  6. ^ Millard, A.R. (2009). A critique of the chronometric evidence for hominid fossils: I. Africa and the Near East 500-50 ka. J Hum Evol. 2008 54:848-874.

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 44°59′N 1°43′E / 44.983°N 1.717°E / 44.983; 1.717