Since the mid-thirties Dmanisi seems to have tantalised archaeologists worldwide with fragments of the past. The east Georgian town sits upon a region of pleistocene artifacts such as an ancient tooth belonging to an extinct rhinoceros. It was in 1984 that the veritable powder keg of archaeological interest exploded with the discovery of primitive human tools. This transformed the site into an anthropological haven, as the tools were only a herald of the bounty to come. Since this point, many pieces of ancient history have been uncovered.
The roots of human kind have been re-postulated due Dmanisi’s output of early human fossils. These specimens have raised questions upon the way early humans dispersed out of their prehistoric African focused at the relative beginning of their human legacy. Early discoveries led to a theory of species diversity within early hominids. It was hypothesised at least three distinct species of hominids migrated out of Africa and began to colonise. Yet after the most recent discovery at Dmanisi within an underground den, this concept once again may be modified.
Archaeologist uncovered five early hominids at the site , all of which have important implications towards the prehistoric diversity of early humans. A factor which makes this site unique may be this excavation produced the most intact proto-human skull and also contained four other local hominids for comparison.
The intact Dmanisi skull, aged at 1.8 million years and known only as Skull 5, has been likened to many of its hominid counterparts, a resemblance to Homo habilis, Homo erectus and also possessing a similarity to the earliest known examples of hominids.
Prior to the insight provided by this dig it might seem fossilised hominid bones had been diverse, and many of the specimens collected pertained to a different region or country. Previously, these factors have led to the assumption that many hominid specimens were actually separate species. To explore these Georgian specimens a team led by David Lordkipanidze applied a similar train of logic toward the five Dmanisi examples.
They assumed that all five belonged to one species, as they shared the same geographic range within the same period of time. Yet each individual displayed a plethora of physical differences from one another, at a magnitude seen within specimens previously reclassified as different species. However, through the comparison of morphological variations observed within modern humans to the striking differences observed in Skull 5 and its counterparts, it was deemed that the physical differences observed within the artifacts were of one species.
This places the legitimacy of many extinct hominid species into question, as earlier theories of hominid speciation was based upon the premise which the observed variation exceeded what is normal within species. However, David Lordkipanidze and his team have shown that it is common for humans to look quite different from one another at a similar level of dissimilarity; this is also observed within chimpanzees.
This may cause many species to be condensed into a single species, which in this case is Homo erectus. Furthermore, it is now believed that the original trio of hominid species that advanced from Africa were actually one species. As the solitary hominid species Homo erectus advanced over the continents, selective pressures caused a change in facial structure and brain size to be promoted. This process varied throughout its entire range, producing differing skull shapes within differing areas. Yet this variation must have been genetically insignificant at the time, possibly led by random genetic drift and sexual selection, as individual populations remained a single species.
Anthropologists usually possess one of two polar inclinations—to simply lump or split specimens. It might be said that the alteration of an accepted theory is the product of one end the spectrum increasing in popularity as concepts commonly sway in and out of favour. Regardless, this discovery provides the innovative data to support a more concise and condensed human family tree to date.
This being said for the purpose of unbiased reasoning, suppose the five Dmanisi hominids were separate species and the observed variations in other specimens were that of speciation. This might imply that these possible species interacted. Raising questions about the way in which early hominid species interacted within their shared environment, would they coexist peacefully or has man always been destined to be the only sentient being of it’s kind? Only sites like Dmanisi may answer this question, with more evidence, theories may be backed more confidently.
Is it possible that this site holds even higher quality specimens; discoveries ready to change perceptions of origin?