The Bodo cranium (Homo heidelbergensis)

The Bodo cranium was recovered in 1976 from an outcrop of Middle Pleistocene sediments at Bodo in the Middle Awash valley, Ethiopia. It is one of the most complete African skulls from this period yet recovered. It was found in deposits containing Acheulian tools that were dated by the argon-40/argon-39 method to between 670,000 and 600,000 years old. It possesses many features characteristic of Homo ergaster, such as a low braincase, broad and robust facial skeleton, relatively thick bones, a forehead with a central bulge and a massive brow ridge.

Its cranial capacity, however, has been estimated at 1300cc, close to that of a modern human and considerably greater than that of Homo ergaster. It has variously been classed as archaic Homo sapiens, Homo sapiens c.f. rhodesiensis, but is now generally classed as Homo heidelbergensis.

The cranium has cut-marks suggesting intentional de-fleshing by a human with a stone tool. These may imply cannibalism, mortuary practice for ritual purposes, or both. However, the skull lacks the cranial base, meaning that brain removal through the foramen magnum cannot be clearly established, and unequivocal evidence for cannibalism is therefore lacking.

References:

Scarre C (2005) (Ed): “The human past”, Thames & Hudson.

White T (1986) Cut Marks on the Bodo Cranium: A Case of Prehistoric
Defleshing, American Journal of Physical Anthropology 69503-509 (1986).

© Christopher Seddon 2008

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Author: prehistorian

Prehistorian & author

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