Oldest Humans Outside Africa

23 September 2007
Posted by Chris Smith.

Researchers in Tbilisi, Georgia, have uncovered the oldest human remains ever found outside of Africa, a species of Homo which might even have returned to Africa to spawn modern man.

The Georgian National Museum's David Lordkipanidze and his colleagues, working at a site in Dmanisi, have uncovered a number of skeletons dating back 1.8 million years. These early people are smaller than modern humans and seem to have features intermediate between the more advanced hominids that gave rise to modern humans, and the earlier Homo habilis. Their overall brain and body sizes are small, their hands are more primitive and ape-like, but their legs are more in keeping with advanced species indicating they could travel long distances. But what's intriguing is that these people clearly pre-date Homo erectus, our immediate ancestor, the earliest specimens of which date from about 1.6 million years ago in parts of Ethiopia.

So it may be that early hominids like these Dmanisi people, having left Africa many years before, subsequently returned to what is now Ethiopia to give rise to Homo erectus, who in turn evolved into us...

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