Suzanna White

The taxonomic status of Homo heidelbergensis sensu lato: A 3D geometric morphometric investigation of craniofacial variation

I am currently researching the degree of variability documented in the supraorbital region of Middle Pleistocene hominins commonly classified as Homo heidelbergensis. The taxonomic validity of this group is widely debated, and Homo heidelbergensis has become a chronologically-defined species, used to group all Middle Pleistocene hominins regardless of their specific morphology. In order to address their classification, I am using a 3D geometric morphometric approach to examine the characteristically robust supraorbital tori from this group. My research uses a NextEngine 3D scanner to capture the virtual surface morphology of the supraorbital and orbital region. Semilandmarks and landmarks are then used to quantify and compare the variation in this area to samples of known taxonomic status, from extant primate and extinct hominin groups. Once the probability of Homo heidelbergensis representing a single, valid species has been assessed, I then aim to investigate the effect of certain factors on the variability of the supraorbital browridge of this group. Such factors include allometry, asymmetry, sexual dimorphism, geography and temporal (within-species) evolution. I will also be using my data to address the relationship between the Middle Pleistocene hominins with later species, such as Homo sapiens and Homo neanderthalensis.

Funding organisation

  • London Arts and Humanities Partnership


 Educational background

  • BSc (Hons), Evolutionary Anthropology, University of Liverpool, 2012
  • MSc, Skeletal and Dental Bioarchaeology, University College London, 2014

White, S., Gowlett, J.A.J., Grove, M. (2014). The place of the Neanderthals in hominin phylogeny. Journal of Anthropological Archaeology, 35, pp. 32-50

White, S. (2015). Virtual Archaeology - The NextEngine Desktop Laser Scanner. Archaeology International. 18, pp.41–44. DOI:

White, S. (2016) Intraspecific variation in the supraorbital tori of Homo heidelbergensis sensu lato. Conference Poster, Unravelling the Palaeolithic, University of Southampton.

White, S. (2016). The Virtual Revolution: Digital data and access in archaeology. Conference Paper, WAC-8 - Digital Bioarchaeology: New Dimensions, New Methods, New Ethics, Kyoto.

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