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Photograph courtesy Georgian National Museum
Published October 17, 2013
A newly discovered skull, some 1.8 million years old, has rekindled debate over the identity of humanity's ancient ancestors. Uncovered at the Dmanisi site in the Caucasus in Georgia, "Skull 5" represents the most complete jaw and cranium from a turning point in early human history.
Researchers, led by Georgian National Museum anthropologist David Lordkipanidze, first found the complete lower jaw of a fossil human in 2000. The cranium turned up five years later, at the fossil-rich Dmanisi site 96 miles southwest of Tbilisi, and is now being reported in the journal Science.
"It was discovered on August 5, 2005—in fact, on my birthday," Lordkipanidze says. He adds that the fossil's importance was clear as soon as the team saw it, but required eight years of preparatory analysis.
That is because Skull 5 is what paleoanthropologists often refer to as a "mosaic," or mixture of features seen in earlier and later humans. The skull's face, large teeth, and small brain size resemble those of earlier fossil humans, but the detailed anatomy of its braincase—which gives clues to the wiring of the brain—is similar to that of a more recent early human species called Homo erectus. This combination of features has fueled a long-running discussion over whether the Dmanisi humans were an early form of Homo erectus, a distinct species called Homo georgicus, or something else.
Dmanisi Fossil Trove
The newly described skull isn't the only one that has been found at Dmanisi. At least five relatively complete skulls have been found there in the last two decades. Those individuals may not have actually lived alongside each other, but apparently occupied this same place within a window of a few thousand years more than 1.75 million years ago.
Lordkipanidze and his coauthors suggest that, taken together, these skulls demonstrate how the Dmanisi humans varied in appearance from one individual to the next. "Together, our analyses suggest that Skull 5 and the other four early Homo [human] individuals from Dmanisi represent the full range of variation within a single species," study senior author Christoph Zollikofer of Switzerland's University of Zurich, said at a briefing on the new skull discovery.
Using morphometrics to gauge skull shape for each fossil skull, Lordkipanidze and colleagues found that the Dmanisi humans varied from each other in facial features and brain size, for example, about as much as modern humans do from each other. In other words, despite minor differences, they all belonged to the same species.
Family Tree Pruned
The single species finding raises wider implications for the history of humanity. Scholars have previously seen Dmanisi's inhabitants as a distinct variation of the human Homo erectus, or possibly as a new species. That would make them early emigrants out of Africa and part of a wildly branching early human family tree.
In the new study, however, Lordkipanidze and coauthors suggest that Dmanisi's inhabitants were actually part of a single human lineage that contains several earlier human species long thought of as distinct from Homo erectus.
So, who were the early humans living at Dmanisi? Lordkipanidze and colleagues place them in a single lineage of early humans that may stretch back as far as 2.4 million years ago in East Africa, when the first human species, Homo habilis, arose. This would lump the various human species that have been named during early Homo history into a single evolving species connecting Homo habilis to the Dmanisi humans, and forward in time to Homo erectus as it expanded across Eurasia. "We think that many African fossils can be lumped in this category and aligned with the single-lineage hypothesis," Lordkipanidze says.
While other paleontologists recognize the fossilized beauty of Skull 5, not everyone agrees on the evolutionary assertions of the new paper.
"There's no doubt that this is an interesting cranium," says paleoanthropologist Bernard Wood of George Washington University in D.C. "It's a good playing card, added to some other playing cards that are equally good."
Anthropologist Fred Spoor of Germany's Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology agrees that Skull 5 is "an absolutely fabulous specimen." He says the skull will help researchers "figure out what's going on with the really early evolution of Homo erectus."
But both Wood and Spoor disagree with the "one big species" message of the new study.
The methodology used in the new study, Wood says, can obscure real differences between species, since the focus was on cranial shape rather than telltale anatomical features such as small openings on the skull for blood vessels or the delicate bony anatomy of the braincase.
Likewise, "species are identified by a clear diagnosis," Spoor says, based on distinct anatomical traits, and using such a shape analysis to determine species "is clearly not adequate," in his view.
Don't "Bring the Whole Bloody House Down"
Wood also points out that the study is entirely focused on skulls. "They are assuming that the only reason that people have come to the conclusion that there was more than one species of early Homo is that it's based entirely on cranial shape, and that's not true," Wood says.
The rest of the skeleton in other early human species carries distinguishing characteristics used to identify distinct species, such as relatively long arms still adapted for climbing in Homo habilis. "It doesn't make any sense to pretend that these pieces of evidence don't exist," Wood says. While he acknowledges that the Dmanisi humans are all likely the same species and can be difficult to categorize as Homo erectus or a separate species, he argues that it's unreasonable to "bring the whole bloody house down" by lumping all early human fossils into a single lineage.
Dmanisi Debate Only a Debut?
So where does that leave the one-time inhabitants of Dmanisi? According to Spoor, their grab bag of skull features places them near an ancient split in human evolution.
The Dmanisi humans have "an interesting combination of a primitive face, primitive teeth, primitive size of the brain," Spoor says, "but if I would take a saw and cut off the face and show the braincase to a colleague, I'm pretty sure that person would say, 'That's Homo erectus.'"
The combination of features seen in the Dmanisi skulls is a record of "evolution in action," Spoor adds. They might place the Dmanisi humans somewhere after the split between the earlier Homo habilis and Homo erectus, sometime prior to 1.8 million years ago.
Debate will undoubtedly continue about who the Dmanisi humans really were and how they fit into our broader family history. Those arguments will hinge on what is still being found. "Dmanisi is a snapshot in time, like a time capsule," Lordkipanidze said at the briefing. He suggests that his discovery team isn't done yet, and more early human fossil finds may lie ahead: "We can say for sure that Dmanisi has enormous potential to yield new discoveries."
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http://www.raptureforums.com/forum/apologetics/82770-egyptian-chronology-exodus-rehoboams-5th-year.html 521 Years NOW verified in ANCIENT ISRAEL HISTORY!
521 Years Verified In EGYPTIAN HISTORY!
We probably never will know a lot about human ancestry because of the tens of thousands of years of ice ages the earth has gone through recently. Ice sheets have covered massive portions of the earth, retreated, and then covered them again. When hundreds of billions of tons of ice scour the earth, nothing much remains, except things like the Great Lakes. 650000 years ago the earth suffered an ice age so severe the ocean levels dropped by 400 feet and ice made it to the midwest and into Germany. The last ice age reached its maximum about 20,000 years ago.
Who knows what the ice destroyed. Entire cities and civilizations for all we know, or maybe just primitive camps of struggling ape people. It took humans only about 4000 years from the time discussed in this article to reaching the moon. What would have stopped humans from doing this many times in the past, especially humans with much larger brains than ours? (preagricultural people had brains more than 10% larger than ours).
All of the ancient human remains found in Africa could fit into a single banker's box. I don't think even the world's greatest scientists could glean much from that sparse record.
It seems like they are clutching at straws more than anything else.There has been only a handful of humain remains ever found in comparison to dinosaur bones. Its seems they are so desperate to prove our existence and where we evolved. If we were so numborous why has there been such little evidence that we even existed at all 2 million years ago. If you look carefully at the human species we have more points to prove our evolution origin is doughtful than the contraire.
In the case of science; science is always a changing evolving field. Man continuously is finding new evidence on one theory or another. In the case of the skull 1) the skull gives more information than the rest of the body 2) after diagenesis skeletal remains can be crushed or moved from original position. For religion I do have faith but I realize the Bible was written thousands of years ago and has been rewritten and changed to benefit the prevailing belief. As the Vatican says, the Bible is an allliteral translation and not a science textbook.
I think what's become apparent in recent years is that humans advanced out of Africa in many migration phases over a period of perhaps 2 million years or more. Migration almost certainly increased during more favourable climactic periods but I'm sure that isolated bands, and maybe even individuals, made their ways north and east into Europe and Asia for many reasons at most times over the history of human migration.
I hope there are more such discoveries in the next few years for those of us around today to have a clearer understanding of the origins of ourselves. Future generations will certainly have a much greater understanding of our origins than we do today.
Why this term 'humanity', which is surely the most inappropriate and inapt for our species. Our species has always been referred to as 'Man'. Our Linnean name is 'Homo' (Man) and 'anthropology is 'study of man'. Let's please drop this ridiculous term 'humanity' and continue with our species name Mankind.
I am very excited about seeing the re-construction of muscle and skin to see what this level of hominid looked like....
another "skull" where is the body ? Am wondering why scientist keep on presenting those skulls without their skeletons...are skeletons to be decomposed faster than the skulls that is why they are no where to be found ..or these are beheaded individuals , but why should they always would discover a beheaded individuals ..am just a bit confused about these finds..
Tantos descubrimientos recientes, nos dejan un poco confundidos. Es hora que los cientificos pongan la casa en orden
possibly early humans have small brains because they don't need to analyze as much as present homo. larger teeth to gnaw thick meats, not like present homo which eat processed food. long face might mean bigger eyes for better vision, bigger nose and ears for keen smell and auditory since early humans use common senses as main tool for survival. not like present ones, use technology. the point is, it is as it was.
que monton de tonterias, unos que si el mono y otros con adan y la biblia, no se que teoria es mas tonta jejejejeje
Man has always been man and never ape to man. If it was ape to man it would still be running the same process as of caterpillar to butterflies don't you think. All those theories were merely assumptions.
For the true origin of man kind find Genesis, chapters 1 and 2 in the HOLY BIBLE. There has only been one species of human, man kind in it's whole.
@Tim Bauermeister In reality, there have only been about 2000 nearly complete dinosaur skeletons found in comparison to nearly 6000 early human remains. The vast majority of our knowledge of dinosaurs comes from a single or collection of different bones. We have 2 good T.Rex skeletons, but 0 complete. Yes, much of it is speculation and deductive reasoning.
Many other mammals like the mastadon and sabertooth tiger were well studied because of WHERE they died. Many died in tar pits and ice areas which have preserved their bones and tissues intact. This fact also contributes to the lack of human remains found.
Humans are now considered an apex predator. We were able to survive not because we are stronger or faster than many other apex predators (alligators, snakes, lions, tigers, etc), but because we were able to outsmart these animals. In a purely wild setting, a single tiger would kill a single human much as it would kill other animals.
Finally, look where the fossils are found. Dinosaur bones were only starting to be found in rock beds that became exposed millions of years later. They lived in a time of large amounts of continent and volcanic activity which again, preserved their bones. Humans are a recent occurence and like many of the mammals alive, their bones and tissues in the same area would have been exposed and destroyed long ago. Coupled with the fact humans have continued to build our cities/towns on top of where we began (prime example... Rome, Delhi, London) and covering much of our remains. Humans are mostly found in Caves or where mass burials took place because those areas are protected from the elements. We aren't old enough that our remains would fall deep enough to be fossilized along with the dinosaurs.
@Tim Bauermeister I see you skipped (or failed) not only science in school, but spelling as well. Good grief.
@Susan McKenzie if you dont believe the bible is full truth, then you are not a real Christian. Also, catholics have a lot of beliefs that go against the 66 books.
@Andrew Booth I always cringe at this sexist term.
@Leon Gore A skull is a very strong structure. The effect of an arch shape, the curvature, it's semicircular structure tends to resist crushing forces. It helps the fossil survive in the rock matrix. Skulls last longer than some of the other bones, which get grinded into into dust more quickly. However, geologic time has been very gentle to this particular skull. This "person" must have been living right for God to have treated his, or her, remains so gently.
@Leon Gore :) Don't you see it took 5 years to discover the skull after finding the lower jaw first?! Think about it: we're talking many MILLIONS of years of SOIL MOVEMENT. The pieces of the body are scattered over large areas. They could be hundreds or even thousands of miles apart. Assuming that all the bones of a body were preserved , it could take centuries to find all the pieces of the skeleton :)
Beheaded bodies???? :))))
@Ivan Pletadothey don't need to analyze as much as present homo
the present homo only use their brain to pairing election, where the female must convince the male that he will stay with her and help her to feed the children.
If females were easier to cheat. then so the males do not need so much brain.
sir i am venkatesan.r from india. currently am writting script for moviedeals about human evolution and out africa. sir are you an anthropologist. if yes i kindly request you to guide me to develope my script. my email is firstname.lastname@example.org
@Fernando HG cuál mono? nadie está hablando de monos, ese es un cuento que inventan en la iglesia para ridiculizar la teoría de la evolución.
@Sati Das man didnt come from ape. man and ape came from a far older species, similar to, but different than both. The skulls they discover from so long ago are missing links in the chain of human evolution from that old ancestor. we can see with our own eyes the evolution, by evaluating those glimpses into our ancestor's anatomy.
@Sati Das las ballenas eran terrestres pero desde que adaptaron al medio acuatico no volvieron a vivir en suelo firme.
@Sati Das Ha ha ha ha ha
@Rony M. totally right and I guess it might be another creature near to human in shape like apes.
@Rony M. He was white and spoke English too?
@Rony M. ...and your god put this here simply to test your faith
@Tristan McCutcheon Ignorance and arrogance are such charming qualities in modern day humans.
@Tristan McCutcheon the bible has been messed with more than this skull and by men prejudiced to find what they want. Take King James....just take that part out
@Tristan McCutcheon Are you serious? And I suppose this would be 6,500 years ago would it?
There is a comment below linking this finding to Hinduism. would you say he is wrong? What made the Christian religion above other religions?
@Tristan McCutcheonThe bible is a great book, it represents a rich way of thinking, of
understanding, of the world and the universe by different civilizations. It is great to have a belief system, especially if it keeps you at peace with yourself, however, it doesn't hurt to ask questions and actually look for the answers yourself.
@Tristan McCutcheon You could benefit from a science textbook.
@Venkatesan Ramalingam I am just an undergraduate computer engineering student who just so happen got interested on this one. :D I hope for your team's success Mr Ramalingam.
@mo silmar and Noah saved the dinosaurs?
@mo silmar earth is flat theory came from ancient Egypt and Babylonia and others but not from what you think of.
@mo silmar ha ha ha good one :D
@Richmond Acosta The inquisition, perhaps?
@John Reddicks I beg to disagree. A Prophet of God already wrote a significant fact about the shape of the earth and it was written thousand of years ago. The problem is, those information came from 'clergy' and as you speak, i noticed it was from Vatican. But as much as I want to tell you more, i have to stop because this is off the topic. But thanks for the response. Btw, I am not a Catholic.
@Ivan Pletado Yet the clergy held firm on the belief of flat Earth and Earth-centric philosophies until the evidence presented against that belief was irrefutable, at which point they took the classic stance of absorbing the truth into their theism, while simultaneously forgetting that they were ever wrong.
Kind of damning points against religion when the beliefs held by the clergy are supposed to be "divine knowledge given directly from God", but are in fact completely wrong.
@John Reddicks @LaDonna Cook @Tristan McCutcheon King James was a free mason who supported the knights Templar, and many other secret society and cults. Who pillaged and raided sacred knowledge from continents across the world to exploit the information to their benefit (religion). To Control The mass.. because religion back then was like law now. ... Looks like they forgot a 2 million year old skull. Never the less, new finding/evidence will always take precedent over literal pretense and disposition..
@ LaDonna Cook. Jews only came from Abraham's Lineage. Before Abraham was born, civilizations existed already.
For low-lying islands, what's needed is less alarmism, more planning.
Whiskey and all, the wooden dwellings of early explorers now look as they did during the first treks to the continent, thanks to a decade-long restoration effort.
When Lynsey Addario started out, journalists were respected as neutral observers. Now you can be beheaded.
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