Hominid Skull Spurs Radical Rewrite of Human Evolution

By Gemma Tarlach | October 17, 2013 1:00 pm
Five skulls from the same time period, found in Dmanisi, Georgia, suggest a single Homo species according to researchers. Illustration courtesy of M. Ponce de Leon and Ch. Zollikofer, University of Zurich, Switzerland.

Five skulls from the same time period, including the world’s first complete adult skull of the Early Pleistocene (far right), suggest early hominids may have been a single Homo species. Image courtesy of M. Ponce de Leon and Ch. Zollikofer, University of Zurich, Switzerland.

Our family tree may have just lost a few branches.

A complete skull found in the Eurasian country of Georgia could be evidence that early hominids are actually all members of a single species. The view challenges long-held ideas about human evolution and could upend decades of classifying early hominids into different species, such as Homo erectus, Homo rudolfensis and Homo habilis.

Researchers publishing their analysis of the 1.8 million year old find in Science today argue that the skull’s combination of primitive and more evolved features make it difficult to classify by currently accepted definitions of early hominid species. In addition, variations between the skull and those of other early hominids found at the site are no more significant than differences among modern humans, suggesting the fossils represent one species.

Something Old, Something New

The face of Dmanisi Skull 5 (cranium D4500 and mandible D2600). hoto courtesy of Guram Bumbiashvili, Georgian National Museum

The face of Skull 5. Credit: Guram Bumbiashvili, Georgian National Museum

Skull 5, from a partially excavated site at Dmanisi, Georgia, is the world’s first complete adult skull found from the Early Pleistocene period, according to the study’s authors. The skull’s cranium and jaw bone were found five years apart, about six feet from each other, but researchers are confident they came from the same individual. The skull has a mosaic of both primitive and more evolved features, such as a small braincase and long face, not previously seen together in the fossil record.

Researchers found additional remains associated with Skull 5 that suggest the individual had a stature and limb-to-body proportions within the range of modern humans. The researchers believe that Skull 5, based on its massive size, was likely a male. Their analysis also found that the individual had suffered a fractured cheekbone in life as well as arthritis.

All in the Family

The context of the Skull 5 find could prove to be as valuable as the skull itself. Skull 5 was co-located with partial skull remains of four other early hominids, as well as animal fossils and stone tools, all about 1.8 million years old. Researchers say this is the first time they have been able to study a population sample of early hominids who lived in the same location and time frame rather than individual remains.

How Skull 5's owner might have looked in life. Art courtesy of J.H. Matternes

How Skull 5’s owner might have looked in life. Art courtesy of J.H. Matternes

Scientists have long classified different species of hominids based on sometimes subtle variations as well as when and where they were found. But the five Dmanisi skulls exhibit a range of characteristics ascribed to hominid species spanning a vast geography and time period, from 2.4 million year old African remains to finds from Asia and Europe that are half that age.

The team excavating the Georgian site suggest that the five skulls offer tantalizing evidence that there was only one early hominid species. To bolster their theory, they note that variations between the skulls are no more significant than variations between five modern humans or five chimpanzees.

A Bone To Pick

As excavations at Dmanisi continue, researchers expect to find more fossils — and perhaps more conclusive proof that normal variation within a single Homo species has been misinterpreted as species diversity. It might be time to rewrite the evolutionary history books.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Living World, top posts
MORE ABOUT: paleontology
  • http://againstjebelallawz.wordpress.com/ Enopoletus Harding

    It might be time to rewrite the evolutionary history books.

    -More like add a footnote.

    • Rebekah Pearce

      Well-played Enopoletus Harding, well-played.

  • http://www.skepticalraptor.com/skepticalraptorblog.php Michael Simpson

    Radical rewrite? No. Revising the cladistics of human evolution is a semantic game, rather than a rewrite of evolutionary history. That we evolved from a common ancestor of the great apes is unchanged.

    This is interesting. But it’s not going to cause a massive rewrite of human evolution. Just a few edits to the Latin names.

    • HillbillieNurse

      Evolution from monkeys? You still believe that bullshit?

      • Helluin

        Hominids are not monkeys. And evolution doesn’t say humans evolved from monkeys. Maybe you need to catch up on the past century and a half of science; you seem a little behind the times.

        • HillbillieNurse

          I never said they were. LMAO. Idiot.

          • Heimdall222

            Let’s all give HillbillieNurse a long, hard stare. Then let’s all shout…creationist moron!!

        • Dr Jahan

          this is a common misunderstand, our ancestor and monkeys had been differentiated from a probable phylogenic node. its not true that we are the results of monkeys evolution while they had been stopped in our ancient evolutionary station.

        • silverrocket

          Maybe you need to read his post more carefully. He didn’t even use the word “monkey” anywhere, and you misunderstood his entire post: a lame fail.

      • http://www.skepticalraptor.com/skepticalraptorblog.php Michael Simpson

        If you were capable of reading, you’d see that I said that humans evolved from a common ancestor of the great apes. Humans are great apes.

        One more thing. I don’t “believe” in anything. I only accept what is supported by scientific evidence. And evolution from a common ancestor of all primates is supported by scientific evidence.

        • HillbillieNurse

          Oh you “believe” Michael, you are desperate to believe. The alien theory would be more plausible than the ape theory, try that one. They are theories, not facts. Never have been.

          • Heimdall222

            Hey there, HillbillieNurse. Have any of your buddies ever mentioned to you that, from a creationistic point of view, YOU are only a theory?

            Not a fact!

          • HillbillieNurse

            How do you know what I am or what I believe?

          • Heimdall222

            Oh, believe me, I KNOW what you are.

            And I completely understand that creationistic philosophies are, and have always been, boils on the backside of thinking humanity!

          • HillbillieNurse

            Lol thank you for the bet I just won. You were SO predictable, and still such a loser.

          • Heimdall222

            Hmmm. Pots, kettles, black!

        • pacman10768

          I see that you would rather call your common ancestor a great ape than an African…..if you study the most recent advancements in genetics you would find it quit impossible to argue these FACTS

  • bob level

    The Creationists will be quote mining this article fervently..”..all members of a single species” or ‘kind’ as they like to say. ‘See, all the fossils are of humans, some just are malformed. This is proof that God created humans in 6 days!’

    • HillbillieNurse

      How long is God’s day?

      • beecharmer

        About a million years?

        • Heimdall222

          Nah, couldn’t be. After all, the Earth was only created(!) something like 6000 years ago.

          Again, let’s all give HillbillieNurse a long, hard stare. Then….

      • Name

        Not long enough
        to point out all of your logical fallacies.

      • Jason McMillen

        God is subject to the same laws of physics as everything else in the Cosmos. Therefore, on Earth, Gods day = 24 hours.

        • Heimdall222

          Now look what you’ve gone and done.

          You’re forcing HillbillieNurse to Google ‘Annunnaki”, to find out what that means.

          Which requires spelling the word somewhat near correctly, of course.

    • m12345

      er no.

      They believe that the earth started 6000 years ago, clearly this fossil find never happened….

      • disqus_ipJBBc3943

        Kinda like republicans and obamacare – facts and evidence are irrelevant .

    • johndouglasdahl@gmail.com

      reread it. humans on the last day of 6 days, not IN 6 days, only one

  • Jean-A’Layn

    This is interesting. I’d like to see what else they present before concluding to some major rewrite.

  • J_R_K

    “Personally, I’ve always figured that in about 1.8 billion years, someone is going to dig up Telly Savalas and Yul Brenner and conclude that 1.8 billion years ago, all men were bald.” ~ I can’t remember who said that, but it made me laugh when I first heard it.

    • rgrandall

      Sorta sounds like a Billy Crystal joke …..

  • beecharmer

    Wowzer!

    • Heimdall222

      Ummm, wowzer what? Please clarify!

      • jvkohl

        beecharmer may already know that the honeybee model organism exemplifies the nutrient-dependent pheromone-controlled changes in morphology that include brain development in vertebrates and invertebrates. My co-authors and I published on the molecular epigenetics of vertebrates/mammals in 1996, and the model of hormone-organized and hormone-activated changes was subsequently extended to invertebrates by Elekonich and Robinson in 2000.

  • bob

    In obamas case the aliens humped the monkey

    • http://www.skepticalraptor.com/skepticalraptorblog.php Michael Simpson

      Your racism provides evidence of your low IQ. I’m shocked you’re able to read this article. And in your case, it’s clear that you haven’t.

      Have a good day being an ignorant racist cretin.

      Yeah, I’m feeding the troll.

    • Heimdall222

      Hey, bob, if yer gonna be a racist, at least try to be a LITTLE subtle!

      Say, by any chance do you know HillbillieNurse…?

    • Hawkeye72

      Actually the donkey caught Obama’s mama and that’s why he was born a dumb democrat socialist. Hey,maybe there is something to this evolution comedy club stuff.

      • Heimdall222

        Oh, Hawkeye, Hawkeye, Hawkeye. Such a racist troll you are!

        Believe I smell a Southrun Seg/Secesh. Right? (They do all have a very distinctive odor, after all.)

        Two truths:

        1. The Confederacy lost the Civil War.

        2. The Guns Over People/Tea Party will lose just as heavily in the next elections.

  • jvkohl

    It’s becoming clearer just how much impact a nutrient-dependent change in a single base pair can have on adaptive evolution in a human population — one that appears to have adaptively evolved in what is now central China during the past ~30,000 years. Subtle differences include changes in hair thickness, sweat glands, mammary tissue, and teeth that have been modeled in the mouse, and they define species more accurately than could examination of skulls. Furthermore, the model of nutrient-dependent pheromone-controlled adaptive evolution refutes mutation-driven natural selection, and establishes selection for nutrients as the cause of adaptive evolution, which is controlled by the metabolism of the nutrients to species-specific pheromones, that control the physiology of reproduction. For comparison to mutation-driven evolution (i.e., the theory), in my model, as in Darwin’s theory, ‘conditions of life’ must be met before natural selection for anything else could occur. The conditions of life are nutrient-dependent and pheromone-controlled in species from microbes to man. That’s probably why these skulls appear to be so similar; the organisms they represent did not mutate from apes to become humans. Subtle changes occurred due to dietary differences as they do in every other species on this planet.

    • Heimdall222

      And was your grant renewed?

      • jvkohl

        I am a self-funded independent researcher / medical laboratory scientist. Academics often cannot report evidence of new scientific truths without approval from their institutions / professors..

    • http://www.skepticalraptor.com/skepticalraptorblog.php Michael Simpson

      You derived THAT from this article? I would like to see some published scientific evidence that supports some of your leaps of logic.

      • jvkohl

        My response to you with citations to my published works was not posted. I have since posted directly to the comments section at the Science Magazine site and on the National Geographic site. My authorship is under James V. Kohl.

  • Elderlybloke

    Science is confusing and bewildering,the ideas keep changing and it is hard work forgetting the old ideas and accepting the new.
    I may take up Religion,nothing ever changes ,what was believed 2000 years ago is still believed today.

    It will stop me having that Thinking feeling that I have endured for many moons.

    • Heimdall222

      Well, at least we know that you’re not a creationist! Since you mentioned thinking….

    • bobgeezer

      Scientific Ideas change very little – except for quantum mechanics.

      What changes is Facts, as they are discovered as in this case; especially since Paleontology deals with artifacts hundreds of thousands or millions of years old, with no written materials to explain.

      • Elderlybloke

        Greetings all.
        It is nice to see people taking an interest in this

        I was actually being a bit Tongue in Cheek with my comment.

      • Sandra Whitney

        “Facts” don’t change, interpretations do.

        • bobgeezer

          Not true. What are “facts” in one generation are Historical Errors” in a further generation, as we learn more and more about Science.

    • http://www.skepticalraptor.com/skepticalraptorblog.php Skeptical Raptor

      Science is not dogmatic, because evidence is used to test a hypothesis. New evidence means we revise hypotheses, until such time there is so much evidence that it supports a consensus or a theory. Science pushes us to find data, and use it to support or refute a hypothesis. Science is self-critical, so that new information may change the consensus.

      Even the Scientific Theory of Evolution could be set aside if sufficient evidence was supplied to change it. There hasn’t been, but science is openminded to it.

      Change is good. Science is not confusing, it is logical. Is it bewildering? Yeah, but that’s what makes it so much fun.

      • jvkohl

        No experimental evidence supports Haldane’s idea of mutation-initiated natural selection. Mutations obviously occur, but they are not fixed in the genome of C. elegans, for example. However, speciation in nematodes occurs via ecological, social, and neurogenic niche construction — as it does in all species. Niche construction is nutrient-dependent and pheromone-controlled.It has no more to do with mutations than the differences in the skulls reported here. The theory of mutation-driven evolution is not scientific; it’s acceptance represents dogma, because it was accepted with no experimental evidence.

  • http://againstjebelallawz.wordpress.com/ Enopoletus Harding

    When half a dozen major followup articles by different authors have the same conclusion, and all major rebuttals to those articles are soundly refuted, then it might be time to rewrite the evolutionary history books.

    • bobgeezer

      When that happens, there’ll be a lot more subjects to study: us, because we’ll all be long gone before the Scientific Community does anything in a timely manner.

    • silverrocket

      That, and increasing the sample size beyond “1”.

  • 1Zooman

    Haven’t we seen this character before? Is he a member of the Schumer clan? Geez, I thought we saw him crawling around on the Senate floor. Hold on a minute. A second analysis shows this guy’s cranium is larger and more refined than is Schmucky’s. From this one might conclude that sometimes evolution by natural selection takes a retrograde step, a devolution if you will. And when that happens we put them in the US Congress; both Houses. That accounts for why so many folks allow the ongoing occupancy of an alien thing in the White House called Obama (That does have a primitive ring to it.) He is African, isn’t he?

    • rgrandall

      … yer a jerk ….

  • RLJEight

    Maybe there was a convention of hominid species. Thus the disparate features . . .

    • rgrandall

      Must have been a POLITICAL convention …… [ *sneers* ]

  • Hawkeye72

    Every new finding supports the Bible more and more.

    • bobgeezer

      Typical Religious nonsense: this is a scientific discussion forum: keep your nonsense off the plate, please.

      • Hawkeye72

        And you’re a typical idiot with the IQ of a dead slug.

      • Rui Rosenthal

        Bob, if you are as half as intelligent as my dog is, you should read the Bible and than react the way you did

        • jvkohl

          Alternatively, as I already indicated, we could stick with the science:

          “What I would like to see, for comparison, is any experimental evidence of mutation-initiated natural selection, since skull 5 clearly shows that adaptive evolution is nutrient-dependent and pheromone-controlled, which is detailed in my most recent published work.”

          See: Nutrient-dependent/pheromone-controlled adaptive evolution: a model http://www.socioaffectiveneuro

  • rgrandall

    I think this really points up the difficulties of interpreting our evolutionary heritage give the sheer rarity of finds like this — of the millions of individuals that came before, only a tiny fraction chanced to be preserved in a way that we can excavate and learn from today ….. This one is very unusual in that it is not just a single individual.

  • amandaeallen

    Am I the only one that has a hard time thinking humans were on Earth 1.8 million years ago.

    • bobgeezer

      YES

      • consumer87

        Well, Mr. Geezer, you can’t go back on this one now. You made a rather absolute statement that amandaeallen is the only one that has a hard time thinking humans were on Earth 1.8 million years ago. I am the second such person. You have now been proven wrong. Perhaps you should watch how quickly you make your pronouncements, especially when you knew she was not the only one.

        • bobgeezer

          Look up the word “sarcasm”

          • consumer87

            If you feel I am ignorant, why be so rude about it? Sarcasm works both ways.

          • bobgeezer

            Your comment was’t sarcastic, as was mine. It’s a a simple statement of facts..

          • consumer87

            Does not my final sentence in my first post imply that I knew you were being sarcastic? I too was attempting sarcasm in my initial post. Of course, it would be difficult thinking that humans were on the planet 1.8 million years ago when in fact the article is talking about hominids. My context, however, was the larger discussion and not simply this thread. You had made earlier posts about facts changing. My post was a tongue in cheek attempt to agree with you, that we should be careful in our pronouncements.

          • bobgeezer

            I guess sarcasm and tongue-in-cheek comments are hard to get right in such a venue. Glad we’re on the same page. Thanks for the reply.

          • consumer87

            I would agree. I still have much to learn in this arena. In these kinds of exchanges it is best to simply say it like it is. Thank you as well.

  • biju

    were they republicans?

  • Sandra Whitney

    The age-old division between “lumpers” and “splitters”. I’ve been saying this to my anthropology classes for decades. You get famous for naming a new species,not for finding the tenth example of a previously described species. Just look at the difference between lady gymnasts and lady basketball players. Just look at the difference between Mbuti pygmies and Turkana pastoralists. Some people wanted to put “Lucy” into a different species than other A. afarensis just because she was shorter. Nonsense. Glad they have at least a small group of skulls from one place and a short time span so that they have some better data. That’s the value of continued searching.

  • Billy Bob

    It is
    humorous to see so many ‘scientists’ here fussing and flapping, making their
    pronouncements about what this find does or does not mean. Never let it be said that ‘scientists’ cannot
    be certain about how things really are, even in the face of new information that
    may call into question the old conclusions.
    Science frequently has to upend its’ theories when new information is
    discovered and this is how it should be.
    But of course, scientists don’t like to admit this as this demonstrates
    that they have been wrong (After all, there is tenure to think about)!

  • David B.

    The creationists will love this!

  • Xtensive Arts

    so did humans came from monkeys or did monkeys came from humans?

    • bobgeezer

      Neither, of course.

  • Adrian Bilba

    Speciation is artificial. We do it just for understanding the nature. Everything is linear. Drought, forest reduction, apes on land, groups, walking upright, lower foramen magnum, free hands, tools, language, and most of all inconsistent adaptations in order not to get too specialized wich made us adaptable to environmental changes… So adaptable that we got into position of change te environment by ourselves.

  • Adrian Bilba

    Was the neanderthals able to speak? There are genetically approach that they was able. Also anatomical also with the larynx speaking was possible. But my opinion is that the level was extremely low. It’s a critical mass needed to get to the real language in terms of the number of people who are in contact. There should be a minimal 20 individuals.

  • jvkohl

    Re: “Homo is a single, evolving, regionally variable chronospecies.”

    Who proposed that this was not true of all species? And whose works are you citing? Why were they ignored. Who ignored them? Was it biologists, or theorists and philosophers who could not seem to grasp the concepts?

    • R.S.Hawley

      Good for you guys. I have enjoyed reading these comments–except oldgeezer who was rude to that poor gal who interrupted the discussion–and was surprised the F word wasn’t used as punctuation!! I thought that a requirement for Internet discussions. It always seems so.
      Drive on. I’m out of here, because I don’t understand half of it.

  • BabetyBoo

    Unchanged? This is the point. Humans are unchanged, the now recognised evolution hypothesis (never theory!) demands time and my Neanderthal neighbour may be more diluted than then, but our co-existence surely removes the macro-evolutionary element, does it not? I am no scientist but when ignorance stands in the light of common sense, a sinful nature continually proves a blow to a dedicated follower of our creator, Yeshua and Science!

  • Tadeusz Kościuszko

    Keep believing what you are told.

  • Loren Culley

    Just go to show ya the scientist don’t know anything that matters. ya all are going to die too; then what does this paddle matter. does not make humans any better just waisting time till ya die. it will be too late then to find truth about life.

    You should do something that really matters !

  • Scott Gourley

    That we evolved from apes is nearly a given, but is far from time-linear. As an evolved species we developed much earlier than previously thought, so all this changes is the perspective of historical illustration….that would be a re-write.

  • Scott Gourley

    These discussions illustrate why someone other than the ‘scientific community’ needs to delineate the facts to the populous. There is so many different aspects to human evolution that no one ‘scientist’ can claim to know fully how, when, where, or even why human evolution took place.
    If we look back on just the evolution on ‘modern man’, say the last 10,000 years +/-, we can see that there has been very little change genetically. Yes, there has been some – tiny, fractional amounts.
    Not enough to explain the drastic changes that would’ve taken us from a common ‘ape-like’ ancestor to today in 1.8-2.2 million years, at least not without help.
    Here’s a boomerang….let’s see if it not only comes back, but actually hits something on the way!!!
    What if our common ancestor had some natural differences across its numbers, and that the most evolved were subjected to some genetic enhancements, and then allowed to develop ‘naturally’? Could this explain our sudden rise to prominence, the evidence of abstract DNA material in our genome, the lack of examples of any higher-order mammals in a current state of evolution?? What about past civilizations..did they exist..did they have technologies we are unaware of…and where exactly did they go???
    This just shows what is needed for the vast multitudes of people who are interested in human evolution, and related issues, and they are not going to accept the lack of cohesion even in the scientific community. A new science is needed that can take all the various disciplines and make sense of the myriad of questions that go to the core of our understanding of ourselves.
    We sometimes need a certain level of faith or belief in something outside of us to fill in the gaps until science provides us with new facts or ideas. Also, we need to be able to work various ideas and problems from other angles than just the ‘purely-scientific’, because, as we should know, not all science has been used to promulgate knowledge for benefit of mankind as a whole. Science has surely been used to conceal facts from the masses, as a weapon for destruction, as a tool for mass control, genetic manipulation, and even genocide.
    If we can work ideas back and forth until their truth is immutable, then we will succeed. The we will know what questions to ask and answer next, and from whom to expect the truth.

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