Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Skull Forces a Rethinking of the Human Exodus Out of Africa

The standard, accepted rise of man story consists of Homo erectus (proto-human aka hominin) being the first thing close to human to leave Africa around one million years ago. Homo sapien sapien (modern-man) later evolved into existence around 200,000 years ago and left Africa around 70,000 years ago.

However, scientists have discovered a hominin skull in Georgia, the country not the American state, that dates back to about 1.8 million years ago. The Georgian hominin is something that predates Homo Erectus. It is a smaller, dumber probable ancestor that likely used very basic tools similar to those of Homo habilis. At this stage of evolution habilis and the Georgian hominin look more ape-like than modern human.

The Georgian hominin may be evidence that Homo erectus evolved in Eurasia and not in Africa. However, if that is true something massive like climate change or alike forced humans out of Eurasia and back into Africa.

Regardless, the find is fascinating. Clearly we know only a small bit of our own history. Mapping the ebb and flow of migration and understanding the why behind it will answer old question but raise new ones as we try to understand just how man rose to the top of the world.

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