Wednesday, February 10, 2016

The Importance of Schöningen to the Story of Human Evolution in Europe

A lake site in northern Germany, near Schöningen, has lifted much of the veil of how advanced Homo heidelbergensis was during the later Lower Palaeolithic.  As Heritage Daily reports:
The excavations in the open-cast coal mine in Schöningen running from 1994 until today show that we have long underestimated the cultural capacities of Homo heidelbergensis. Schöningen is a key site for documenting both a high resolution record of past climatic change and how hominins lived in northern Europe during the Ice Age. Since 2008 Professor Nicholas Conard and Dr. Jordi Serangeli of the University of Tübingen have led the excavations with a major international research team in close cooperation with the Cultural Heritage Office of Lower Saxony.
the Journal of Human Evolution is making available for a time, all of the papers of a special issue on the site. That is how important it is. That link is here

What has been discovered, since the opening of the excavations, is that Homo heidelbergensis created advanced bone and stone implements, engaged in complex hunting behaviors and exhibited behaviors consistent with a high level of “planning depth.”  Further, they appear to have lived in a society with divisions of labor and a highly advanced communication system.

This has been referred to by the authors of one of the papers as “paradigm shifts in human evolution” and appears to represent, at least at this site and at this time period, a radical change in the way that humans were dealing with their surroundings.  In other words, at around 300,000 years ago, we seem to have the roots of modern human behavior, in Europe.  How much earlier this behavior actually shows up is, at the moment, anybody's guess.


  1. My sense is that these famous paleolithic materials were made by human beings capacitated with a spiritual rational "soul" just like us humans today. This site combined with other evidence ( early remains in Spain, Israel and Asia together the whole Homo heidelbergensis collection) seems to indicate that humans originated on the order of 600 kya.

  2. That is the question, isn't it? When did humans receive the capacity to understand and worship their creator? Cognition seems to really ramp up around this time, though.