An analysis of a complete 1.8-million-year-old hominid skull found at the archaeological site of Dmanisi in Georgia suggests the earliest Homo species – Homo habilis, Homo rudolfensis and so forth – actually belonged to the same species.
The skull fossil, called Skull 5, is the world’s first completely preserved adult hominid skull from the early Pleistocene.
Unlike other Homo fossils, Skull 5 combines a small braincase with a long face and large teeth. It was discovered alongside the remains of four other early human ancestors, a variety of animal fossils and some stone tools – all of them associated with the same location and time period – which make the find truly unique.
“The differences between these Dmanisi fossils are no more pronounced than those between five modern humans or five chimpanzees,” said Dr David Lordkipanidze from the Georgian National Museum in Tbilisi.
Traditionally, researchers have used variation among Homo fossils to define different species. But in light of these new findings, Dr Lordkipanidze and his colleagues suggest that early, diverse Homo fossils, with their origins in Africa, actually represent variation among members of a single, evolving lineage – most appropriately, Homo erectus.
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