Human Evolution: Ancient Skull 5 Suggests Where or Who We Come From

DavidLordkipanidze newest skull discovery leads to further debate over human evolution

Human evolution, who and where we come from is proving different to what was initially believed due to what research with an ancient skull suggests. The debate over humankind’s origins continues with the newest research of an ancient skull, currently suggested to be 1.8 million years old. The skull was unearthed at the Dmanisi site in the Georgian Causcasus region. The skull has been dubbed Skull 5 and still holds an almost complete jaw and cranium- representing the most complete one discovered up until now. The skull also represents a major pivotal point in early human history.

David Lordkipanidze,Georgian National Museum anthropologist,  led the research team. They first discovered the full lower jaw in 2000. After another 5 years the cranium was found, in August, 2005. The preparatory analysis took 8 years. The reason for this, according to National Geographic, is that Skull 5 is a mixture of features identified in both early humans and in later humans. The resemblance to earlier human fossils is the “skulls face, large teeth and small brain size.” However, scientists have found evidence suggesting that Skull 5’s brain wiring is similar to the more recent Homo erectus. The mix of these two characteristic features have caused many debates over just who and what exactly the Dmanisi humans we find remnants of were, the starting point of the Homo erectus or a unique species known as Homo georgicus? The third option is that it could be something altogether different than either of these two options, human or extraterrestrial.

At least 4 other skulls have been found at the Dmanisi site and research suggests that the minor differences among them no longer point towards separate species but the same species with small differences. Lordkipanidze and the research team have discovered that the skulls suggest very similar differences among them in much the same way that modern humans do. The differences are largely in brain sizes and facial features. The team uses morphometrics to see the skull shape by using the fossil skull, the skull shape then suggests further information like the wiring of the brain.

Considering that the greater population once believed the world to be flat, and disregarded those that suggested otherwise, it should come as no surprise that mankind’s family tree is shaking up a little. What we once considered as absolute truth is now proving to be mere stepping stones in understanding who we were, who we are, and where we have come from.

The scientific investigations geared towards rediscovering our origins is closer to the spiritualists’ questions that ignite a seeker to ask certain questions about life than most would care to realize. Nevertheless, it is all seems to be the same pie and just different pieces. The latest science flavored morsel is a rather interesting one, and the Georgian research team claims that the origin of mankind has derived from a single species, hailing from Africa.

This claim has also been met with some skepticism. Paleontologists across the board are certain of one thing and that is the sheer beauty of the fossil. Not only aesthetically (that would, of course, be relative as not all find a skull beautiful) but also beauty in the sense of research. The cranium of Skull 5 is unique and could lead to some interesting observations and discoveries about the evolution of the human species Homo erectus. Many are still unsure about the claims of one single species.

Lordkipanidze and his colleagues say that, based on their research, a single lineage of early humans began 2.4 million years ago in the East of Africa with Homo habilis. By making this claim, all the other human species identified during Homo’s early history are obsolete and is now one single, evolving species. This is how the connection between the Dmanisi humans and the Homo habilis is made. The lineage then expanded across Eurasia as Homo erectus. Lordkipanidze goes on to say that he and his research team think that the majority of the African fossils can be placed in this same category in the single-lineage hypothesis.

To say one or the other is absolute truth would be juvenile and a little bit naive. The clearest fact for now is that new discoveries are still going to be made, and the recent Skull 5 is certainly a doorway to previous information about human ancestors that scientists were not yet equipped to discover before Skull 5. The Georgian team is well aware of this too, as Lordkipanidze says that the research work is far from finished with Dmanisi holding “enormous potential to yield new discoveries.” Who we were, where we come from, and our human evolution story is an ongoing inquiry and with the Skull 5 revealing previously unknown and previously unseen characteristics, we are seeing the potential of finally finding the answer.

Jessica Rosslee

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