Homo heidelbergensis ("Heidelberg Man") is an extinct, potentially distinct species of the genus Homo and may be the direct ancestor of Homo neanderthalensis in Europe.
According to the "Recent Out of Africa" theory, similar "Archaic Homo sapiens" found in Africa (ie.
Homo rhodesiensis and Homo sapiens idaltu), existing in Africa as a part of the operation of the Saharan pump, and not the European forms of Homo heidelbergensis, are thought to be direct ancestors of modern Homo sapiens.
Homo antecessor is likely a direct ancestor living 750,000 years ago evolving into Homo heidelbergensis appearing in the fossil record living roughly 600,000 to 250,000 years ago through various areas of Europe.
Homo heidelbergensis remains were found in Mauer near Heidelberg, Germany and then later in Arago, France and Petralona, Greece.
The best evidence found for these hominins date between 400,000 and 500,000 years ago.
H. heidelbergensis stone tool technology was considerably close to that of the Acheulean tools used by Homo erectus.
The first fossil discovery of this species was made on October 21, 1907 and came from Mauer where the workman Daniel Hartmann spotted a jaw in a sandpit.
The jaw was in good condition except for the missing premolar teeth, which were eventually found near the jaw.
The workman gave it to professor Otto Schoetensack from the University of Heidelberg, who identified and named the fossil.
Most current experts believe Rhodesian Man, found in Africa, to be within the group Homo heidelbergensis.
This would make African heidelbergensis the ancestor of humans while the European variety would be the ancestor of the Neanderthals.