A full skull of an old human progenitor was unearthed by scientists at the archaeological site of Dmanisi, a tiny town in southern Georgia, Europe. The skull belonged to a 1.85 million-year-old extinct hominid!
The archaeological specimen, known as Skull 5 or D4500, is completely whole and features a long face, huge teeth, and a tiny braincase. It was one of five ancient hominin skulls unearthed in Dmanisi, forcing experts to reconsider the account of early human evolution.
“The result provides the first indication that early Homo contained adult individuals with tiny brains but body mass, height, and limb proportions exceeding the lower range limit of current variation,” the researchers write.
Dmanisi is a hamlet and archaeological site in Georgia’s Kvemo Kartli region, some 93 kilometers southwest of the country’s capital Tbilisi, in the Mashavera river valley. The hominid site dates back 1.8 million years.
A succession of skulls unearthed in Dmanisi in the early 2010s with different physical features led to the theory that many unique species in the genus Homo were in reality a single ancestry. And Skull 5, also known as the “D4500,” is the fifth skull recovered at Dmanisi.
Until the 1980s, scientists considered that hominins were confined to the African continent for the entire Early Pleistocene (until around 0.8 million years ago), only moving out during a period known as Out of Africa I. As a result, the great bulk of the archaeological effort was disproportionately concentrated in Africa.
However, the Dmanisi archaeological site is the earliest hominin site discovered outside of Africa, and a study of its artifacts revealed that certain hominins, primarily Homo erectus georgicus, departed Africa as early as 1.85 million years ago. The five skulls are all about the same age.
Most experts believe the Skull 5 is a normal form of Homo erectus, the human predecessors discovered in Africa during the same time period. While some suggest it was Australopithecus sediba, which lived in what is now South Africa some 1.9 million years ago and is thought to be the ancestor of the genus Homo, including modern humans.
Many scientists have offered numerous new possibilities, but we are still deprived of the genuine face of our own past.