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Discovery of 1.8 Million-Year-Old Skull May Rewrite Evolution

| by Michael Allen

A nearly two million-year-old skull of an ancient human ancestor has been discovered by a team of anthropologists in the small town of Dmanisi, which is located in the country of Georgia, near Russia.

Also found at the dig site were remains of four other human ancestors, stone tools, sabre-toothed cats and other extinct animals.

Palaeontologists believe the remains could re-write the early history of human evolution, reports The Independent.

According to evolutionary scientists, Homo erectus first appeared in Africa around 1.8 million years ago, but the Dmanisi fossils show that Homo erectus migrated soon after appearing in Africa, which was not previously known.

"Nobody has ever seen such a well-preserved skull from this period," Professor Christoph Zollikofer told The Guardian. "This is the first complete skull of an adult early Homo [erectus]. They simply did not exist before."

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Professor Zollikofer was part of the discovery and is employed by Zurich University's Anthropological Institute.

"Everything that lived at the time of the Dmanisi was probably just Homo erectus," added Professor Zollikofer. "We are not saying that palaeoanthropologists did things wrong in Africa, but they didn't have the reference we have. Part of the community will like it, but for another part it will be shocking news."

Tim White, a professor at the University of California, Berkeley, was not a part of the dig, but added, "The significance is difficult to overstate. It is stunning in its completeness. This is going to be one of the real classics in paleoanthropology."

"Some palaeontologists see minor differences in fossils and give them labels, and that has resulted in the family tree accumulating a lot of branches," said White. "The Dmanisi fossils give us a new yardstick, and when you apply that yardstick to the African fossils, a lot of that extra wood in the tree is dead wood. It's arm-waving."

David Lordkipanidz, of the Georgian National Museum, who lead the excavation, stated: "If you found the Dmanisi skulls at isolated sites in Africa, some people would give them different species names. But one population can have all this variation. We are using five or six names, but they could all be from one lineage."

Sources: The Guardian and The Independent