1.8M-Year-Old Skull Alters Tale of Human History
'Jaw-dropping' find points to single species spreading from Africa
By Matt Cantor, Newser User
Posted Oct 18, 2013 12:31 AM CDT
Updated Oct 18, 2013 7:57 AM CDT
This 2005 photo shows a pre-human skull found in the ground at the medieval village Dmanisi, Georgia.   (AP Photo/Courtesy of Georgia National Museum)

(Newser) – Many scientists have argued that several different species of human ancestors spread from Africa—but a 1.8 million-year-old skull and the fossilized remains of four other creatures seem to tell a different story. The scientists who found the bones at Dmanisi, in the country of Georgia, in 2005 say they show that a single species fanned out from the continent, the Wall Street Journal reports. "There are these jaw-dropping moments in the life of a scientist," says a neurobiologist who examined "Skull #5," as it's called. "Preconceived ideas ... start falling to pieces." The crux of the finding:

  • Scientists have for years debated whether humans evolved from only one or two species (think tree branches out from a trunk) or many off-shoots that dead-ended (think a bush). This find bolsters the tree theory. The bones found in Georgia show a great deal of variation, but the pre-humans are believed to have died in the same place, within a few centuries of each other. So the researchers believe they are members of the same species, and reason that it's likely the various skulls found in different places and times in Africa may not be different species, but variations of one species.

Even aside from the tale it tells, the skull is a pretty impressive discovery. "It's got to be one of the most complete skulls ever discovered in the fossil record of human evolution," an anatomy professor tells NPR. And as the oldest batch of pre-human fossils found outside Africa, the bones set the date of departure from Africa "much earlier" than previously believed, David Lordkipanidze, the lead author of the study published in Science, tells the AP. (Previously, that movement was thought to have happened 1 million years ago.) With the Dmanisi finds, "For the first time, we can see a population. We only had individuals before," says another researcher.

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Oct 18, 2013 10:20 PM CDT
Pits the Ethiopian creationists with the Caucasus aboriginals. Or Black versus White, once again. Highly racially charged. Did humans originally have melanin and then loose it as they migrated easily in a land condensed AmeriEuroAsia? That's the contemporary story. This discovery shoots huge holes in it and explains why people in the Masai tribe have DNA characteristics of Jews but no other group has it. It indicates humanity flowed away from the Holy Lands and not to it. China claims the Garden of Eden as the Shangrila region. I have visited and yes, its unbelievably spectacular. Especially their southern Shangrila region closer to Nepal. I see it and it reminds me a lot of the scenes shot in, "Air America". This new discovery flows more with an idea humans started in a more Bible centric way and populated the lands flowing away from it.
Oct 18, 2013 9:30 PM CDT
We "boneheads" are having a field day lately: http://www.newser.com/story/175890/jurassic-park-esque-find-blood-filled-mosquito-fossil.html http://www.newser.com/story/176023/scientists-reconstruct-520m-year-old-nervous-system.html
Oct 18, 2013 3:40 PM CDT
I don't get how five parts/sets of remains show what the dispersal pattern for an entire race is/was. I didn't get that story from this article.