Monday, June 13, 2011

Exciting Discoveries in Dmanisi

Here is some tantalizing evidence that suggests both an earlier Out of Africa date (1.85 million vs. 1.7 mya) and a two way migration (Out of Africa to Asia and back again). Basically, this means that it is possible that our earliest ancestors developed in the Caucasus and then returned to Africa where they evolved into Homo sapiens. The evidence comes from the Dmanisi site in Georgia (the country, not the state) that has already revolutionized our ideas about Homo erectus and its march across Eurasia. From the article:

"The accumulating evidence from Eurasia is demonstrating increasingly old and primitive populations," said Reid Ferring of the University of North Texas. Dmanisi is located in the Republic of Georgia.

"The recently discovered data show that Dmanisi was occupied at the same time as, if not before, the first appearance of Homo erectus in east Africa," the team led by Ferring and David Lordkipanidze of the Georgia National Museum reported. They uncovered more than 100 stone artifacts in deep layers at the site. Previously, fossil bones from a later period had been found at the site.

The new discovery shows that the Caucasus region was inhabited by a sustained population, not just transitory colonists. "We do not know as yet what the first occupants looked like, but the implication is that they were similar to, or possibly even more primitive than, those represented by Dmanisi's fossils," Ferring explained.

The occupants of Dmanisi "are the first representatives of our own genus outside Africa, and they represent the most primitive population of the species Homo erectus known to date," added Lordkipanidze. The geographic origins of H. erectus are still unknown.

The early humans at Dmanisi "might be ancestral to all later H. erectus populations, which would suggest a Eurasian origin of H. erectus," said Lordkipanidze. However, there's another theory as well: H. erectus originated in Africa, and the Dmanisi group might represent its first migration out of Africa.

To read the article, click HERE.

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