SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Nation/World

October 18, 2013

1.8M-year-old skull gives glimpse of our evolution

DMANISI, Georgia — The discovery of a 1.8-million-year-old skull of a human ancestor buried under a medieval Georgian village provides a vivid picture of early evolution and indicates our family tree may have fewer branches than some believe, scientists say.

The fossil is the most complete pre-human skull uncovered. With other partial remains previously found at the rural site, it gives researchers the earliest evidence of human ancestors moving out of Africa and spreading north to the rest of the world, according to a study published yesterday in the journal Science.

The skull and other remains offer a glimpse of a population of pre-humans of various sizes living at the same time — something that scientists had not seen before for such an ancient era. This diversity bolsters one of two competing theories about the way our early ancestors evolved, spreading out more like a tree than a bush.

Nearly all of the previous pre-human discoveries have been fragmented bones, scattered over time and locations — like a smattering of random tweets of our evolutionary history. The findings at Dmanisi are more complete, weaving more of a short story. Before the site was found, the movement from Africa was put at about 1 million years ago.

When examined with the earlier Georgian finds, the skull “shows that this special immigration out of Africa happened much earlier than we thought and a much more primitive group did it,” said study lead author David Lordkipanidze, director of the Georgia National Museum. “This is important to understanding human evolution.”

For years, some scientists have said humans evolved from only one or two species, much like a tree branches out from a trunk, while others say the process was more like a bush with several offshoots that went nowhere.

Even bush-favoring scientists say these findings show one single species nearly 2 million years ago at the former Soviet republic site. But they disagree that the same conclusion can be said for bones found elsewhere, such as Africa. However, Lordkipanidze and colleagues point out that the skulls found in Georgia are different sizes but are considered to be the same species. So, they reason, it’s likely the various skulls found in different places and times in Africa may not be different species, but variations in one species.

Text Only | Photo Reprints
Nation/World

Local News
  • Ex-Market Basket boss wants to buy company

    July 24, 2014

  • Court finds Danvers nursing home at fault DANVERS -- The estate of an elderly woman who died after a fall and weeks of neglect at a Danvers nursing home has won a $14.5 million verdict in a wrongful death and negligence case. A Middlesex Superior Court jury awarded the estate of Genevieve Ca

    July 24, 2014

  • chism2 [Duplicate] Chism arraigned in second attack

    BOSTON -- When the woman came out of the bathroom, accused murderer Philip Chism was standing a foot in front of her. He put his hands around the clinician's neck, started choking her and pushed her up against a cinder block wall, a prosecutor said.

    July 24, 2014 3 Photos 7 Stories

  • 140723_SN_DLE_PROTESTERS4 Danvers Market Basket forced to toss food

    DANVERS -- Cars peppered the Market Basket intersection Wednesday afternoon with honks supporting grocery chain workers, who held signs calling for the reinstatement of fired CEO Arthur T. Demoulas. But the latest development in the grocery chain spe

    July 24, 2014 5 Photos 6 Stories

  • Scuba diver found off Marblehead identified MARBLEHEAD -- The scuba diver who died in an apparent drowning Tuesday off the coast of Marblehead was identified Wednesday as 58-year-old Gregory Cole of Westfield. The Essex District Attorney's Office said the state medical examiner's office will c

    July 24, 2014