Dmanisi Skull 5

The news of the day regarding science in general and Human Evolution specifically is the publication of a paper in Science about the fifth skull found in Dmanisi and its implications on the whole of the Human evolutionary tree.

Beautiful Skull Spurs Debate on Human History

An iconic new skull from Dmanisi, Georgia, dated to 1.8 million years ago, presents a new face for our genusHomo. The stunningly complete skull of an adult man has a surprisingly primitive, protruding upper jaw, and a tiny braincase. Combined with skulls found earlier at Dmanisi, it suggests that ancient people from the same time and place could look quite different from each other.


The skull in question, found back in 2005, present mosaic characteristics, or, a mixture of features observed in, what until now were, different early humans classified as different species.

But now, the authors indicate that the 5 skulls found until now, with different features, can actually belong to the same species.

Together, our analyses suggest that Skull 5 and the other four early Homo [human] individuals from Dmanisi represent the full range of variation within a single species.


Rare skull sparks human evolution controversy

The authors indicate that the Dmanasi’s inhabitants could be part of a single human lineage, also including several earlier human species classified as something other that Homo erectusLordkipanidze and colleagues place these Dmanisi’s individuals in a single lineage of early humans that may stretch back as far as 2.4 million years ago in East Africa, when the first human species, Homo habilis, arose. This explanation would group the various human species that have been named during early Homo history into a single evolving species connecting Homo habilis to the Dmanisi humans, and to Homo erectus as it expanded across Eurasia.

We think that many African fossils can be lumped in this category and aligned with the single-lineage hypothesis.

So now, naturally, the controversy starts. It’s well known that not all researchers agree with the divisions of the Homo genus as they were until now, but they will likely not like the new proposal either, that proposes the fusing of what was thought to be several different species.

Dmanisi Skull: Homo Habilis, Homo Erectus Belonged To The Same Species – Study

7 thoughts on “Dmanisi Skull 5

  1. thereviewer says:

    The age-old phrase “like it or lump it” in this instance needs revision to “dislike it or lump it”! Such is the best way to describe this argument currently dividing scholars in the field of human evolution. What’s your view on this? Well reported by the way.

    • MyTinyObsessions says:

      I agree with the view that they are perhaps far less species that believed so far. The truth is that in some cases we have so few specimens, that what is maybe intraspecies variation, is being accounted as another division entirely.

      • thereviewer says:

        I think you have a good point. But I can’t think of such a level of intraspecies variation occurring in one place at one time! Dmanisi is perhaps one of the best preserved accumulations of hominin remains out there, and if scientists can’t agree on the nature of the five skulls, what hope is there for other remains?!

        • MyTinyObsessions says:

          I don’t know at what point into the research they are at the moment, but certainly this will be a long discussion topic. Nevertheless, there are species with much more variation within than others, we could be looking at the ends of the spectrum, maybe if we had more representativity, these 5 skulls wouldn’t be “that different”, you know what I mean?

          • thereviewer says:

            I agree, they could well be ends of the spectrum. Nevertheless interpopulation differences are supposed to be bigger than intrapopulation differences. How can these skulls all belong to one population. I would challenge the scholars to provide evidence of such a level of intrapopulation variation in morphology! Do the authors pit that the five skulls belong to a synchronous population? I really should read the paper in more depth…

          • MyTinyObsessions says:

            I should re-read it as well, either way, I don’t think it’s a case such as found in El Sidron, where they know that it was occupied only at one moment. Chances are, these skulls do not belong to such a population. The paper says “By analyzing the skull shapes with 3D computer-based methods, the researchers found that the range of variation in the group at Dmanisi was no greater than within living humans or chimps.”

  2. Jamie Kendrick says:

    Hmm sounds ambiguous to me… The variation may be no greater than that seen in modern humans today but the nature of the sample is what concerns me – for example, does that include Aboriginals, Native Americans, San people and Europeans? In which case these populations at a minimum diverged 60000 years ago to produce the divergent morphology in cranial shape. It seems hard to fathom that populations that lived 1.8 million years ago can have had the same mobility as Homo sapiens, doesn’t it? Although I guess a period of 60,000 years is but a snapshot in the stratigraphy of Dmanisi; waves of population migrations could have occurred during such a time. Also in the knowledge that Homo erectus populations inhabited Western Asia simultaneously… What a baffled!

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