Ancient skeletons discovered in Georgia threaten to overturn the theory of human evolution

For generations, scientists have believed Africa was the cradle of mankind.

Now a stunning archaeological discovery suggests our primitive ancestors left Africa to explore the world around 800,000 years earlier than was previously thought before returning to their home continent.

It was there – hundreds of thousands of years later – that they evolved into modern humans and embarked on a second mass migration, researchers say.

Astonishing discovery: Archaeologists have unearthed six ancient skeletons dating back 1.8 million years in the hills of GeorgiaAstonishing discovery: Archaeologists have unearthed six ancient skeletons dating back 1.8 million years in the hills of Georgia

Archaeologists have unearthed six ancient skeletons dating back 1.8 million years in the hills of Georgia which threaten to overturn the theory of human evolution.

The Georgian bones  – which include incredibly well preserved skulls and teeth – are the earliest humans ever found outside Africa.

The remains belong to a race of short early humans with small primitive brains who walked and ran like modern people.

They were found alongside stone tools, animal remains and plants – suggesting that they hunted and butchered meat.

Professor David LordkipanidzeProfessor David Lordkipanidze with one of the skulls from the Georgia site
mapArchaeologists now believe that our ancestors left for Europe at least 1.8million years ago, before returning to Africa and developing into Homo Sapiens

Prof David Lordkipanidze, the direct of the Georgian National Museum, said: ‘Before our findings, the prevailing view was that humans came out of Africa almost 1million years ago, that they already had sophisticated stone tools, and that their body anatomy was quite advanced in terms of brain capacity and limb proportions. But what we are finding is quite different’

He said Africa was still the unchallenged cradle of mankind. But he added: ‘Georgia may have been the cradle of the first Europeans.’

Their discovery muddies the already complicated history of mankind.

Archaeologists believe that the first true humans – a race of squat people called Homo habilis – evolved in Africa around 2.5 million years ago. The were followed by a taller athletic species called Homo erectus who migrated out of Africa to colonise Europe and Asia.

Outside Africa their descendents are thought to have died out. But in Africa, they turned into modern man who began a second wave of migration around 120,000 years ago.

The new finds suggest Homo erectus left Africa far earlier than was previously estimated and lived for a while in Eurasia.

Dmanisi Three skulls all found at the Dmanisi site

The new ancestors – found in Dmanisi – were around 150cm tall, and had brains half the size of modern people’s.

‘While the Dmanisi people were almost modern in their body proportions, and were highly efficient walkers and runners, their arms moved in a different way and their brains were tiny compared to ours,’ he told the British Science Festival at Surrey University.

‘Their brain capacity is about 600 cubic centimetres. The prevailing view before this discovery was that the humans who first left Africa had a brain size of about 1,000 cubic centimetres.

‘Nevertheless they were sophisticated tool makers with high social and cognitive skills.’

The first Dmanisi fossils were found in 2001. The most recent has only just been unearthed and its details have yet to be published in a scientific journal.

Prof Lordkipanidze said the Dmanisi bones may have belonged to an early  Homo erectus which lived in Georgia before moving on to the rest of Europe.

Or the early humans may then have returned to Africa, eventually giving rise to our own species, Homoe sapiens, he said.

‘The question is whether Homo erectus orginated in Africa or Eurasia, and if in Eurasia, did we have vice-versa migrations? This idea looked very stupid a few years ago, but not today,’ he told the British Science Festival.


Oldest human footprints found in Kenya

*I am currently writing an essay on human origins. This fits well with my original theories.*

Two sets of prints left by Homo ergaster, an early ancestor of modern humans. were found in separate rock layers near Ileret.

Laser scanning revealed that feet have stayed much the same over 1.5 million years and the creature walked the same way as people do today.

The prints bore all the hallmarks of a modern human stride, including an arched foot, short toes, and a big toe that was parallel to the other toes.

As in modern humans, weight was transferred from the heel to the ball of the foot and then to the big toe with each step.

The find is the first of its kind since the famous discovery 30 years ago of footprints dating back 3.75 million years at Laetoli, Tanzania.

These older prints are thought to have been left by the more primitive and apelike Australopithecus.

Although this creature also appears to have walked upright, it had a shallow arch and a splayed big toe characteristic of apes.

The Ileret prints, pressed into solidified layers of ancient mud, consisted of an upper and lower set five metres apart.

The top layer contained three trails – two of two prints each, one of seven prints, and a number of isolated prints.

The deeper layer preserved one trail of two prints and a single isolated smaller print that may have been left by a child.

Scientists led by Dr Matthew Bennett, from the University of Bournemouth in Poole, scanned the prints and compared them with those of modern humans and the Laetoli prints.

They wrote in the journal Science: “The Ileret prints show that by 1.5 million years, hominids had evolved an essentially modern human foot function and style of bipedal locomotion.”

Homo ergaster, often known as early Homo erectus, was the first “human” to have long legs and short arms like modern Homo sapiens.

Various remains of H. ergaster/erectus have been found in Tanzania, Kenya, and South Africa, where human beings first evolved.

Breaking News: The Most Intact Homo erectus Female Pelvis

*Excellent news that questions current anthropological thought!!*

The upcoming issue of Science will be publishing the announcement of a newly discovered 1.2 million-year-old female Homo erectus pelvis. The fossil was found in 2001 at the Gona Study Area in the Afar region Ethiopia. Excavations were completed in 2003.

Sileshi Semaw, the leader of the Gona Project, said that the birth canal of this pelvis is 30% larger than earlier estimates based on the 1.5-million-year-old juvenile male pelvis of KNM-WT 15000 (Turkana Boy) found in Kenya. I don’t have an early copy of the paper, but if this is true, this find will make us reevaluate our estimations of Homo erectus growth and development. Current theories, based upon estimations of the existing male skeleton from Kenya, suggested Homo erectus produced babies with only a limited neonatal brain size, and experienced rapid brain growth while still developmentally immature. But as you may know, male and female primate pelvic girdles are extremely different. This new pelvis also tells us of some interesting differences in stature and gait.

Early hominid female pelvic anatomy is basically unknown, in fact we don’t really have much data, really only Lucy’s fragmented pelvis, the 3.2 million year old Australopithecus afarensis. So I’m interested in reading more about this fossil and what it has to tell us of Homo erectus anatomy and early human evolution. I guess I gotta wait until the paper appears in Science. Expect a post about it as soon as I get my hands on the paper.