Skull found changes the way we view evolution.
Current understandings of evolution have been turned on its head—literally—when a 1.8 million-year-old skull was found in Georgia. The study of the skull claims that early humans did come from Africa as seven species, but actually as a single ‘homo erectus’ with variations in its looks. The skull was discovered during an archaeological dig at the city of Dmanisi in Georgia, where stone tools were also found next to the remains, indicating that the species hunted large carnivorous prey.
The discovery ends a manhunt of eight years trying to piece together the skull, as the excavation began in 2005. The remains were first discovered in 1991 by Georgian scientist, David Lordkipanidze, accompanied by an international team, which unearthed the remains over the years. It is believed that the skull is one of the most important fossil finds to date, as it is the only intact skull ever found of a human ancestor that lived in the early Pleistocene era (2,588,000 to 11,700 years ago). The skull has a tiny brain area—about a third of the size of a modern human; it also has protruding brows, jutting jaws, and other characteristics that had been found in prehistoric humans. The revelation came however when the skull was placed next to four other skulls that were discovered within the same area. They vary so much in appearance that they brought the current understanding of species variation into question.
Traditional theories accept a whole plethora of stand-alone species. With the new find, it is thought now that the five remains were all one, just with differences in the bone structure. Christoph Zollikofer from the University of Zurich added weight to the new hypothesis, saying, “we know that these individuals came from the same location and the same geological time, so they could, in principle, represent a single population of a single species. The five Dmanisi individuals are conspicuously different from each other, but not more different than any five modern human individuals, or five chimpanzee individuals, from a given population.”
For decades, researchers would be separating all types of humans originating in Africa into sub-groups, such as Homo habilis and Homo rudolfensis. However, with the new hypothesis, all of these could just be Homo erectus, with the regular human variation in bone structure we witness currently with humans. It also challenges the idea that we needed a larger brain to be intelligent enough to use complex tools, hunt prey and migrate to distant continents.
However, challengers of the hypothesis believe that the skull may simply just belong to a new species of human, and not a variation. At the end of the day, a new form of human has been discovered, and it showcases that its life patterns are closely mimicked to what we see today in modern humans.