Skulls of earliest human migrants found

Scientists have discovered the fossilised skulls of some of the earliest humans to migrate out of Africa, about 1.7 million years ago, at an archaeological site in the Republic of Georgia.

Scientists have discovered the fossilised skulls of some of the earliest humans to migrate out of Africa, about 1.7 million years ago, at an archaeological site in the Republic of Georgia.

Two skulls have been found, which share distinctive features with early hominids who roamed the African savannah soon after the human family split off from its ape-like ancestors. A team from Georgia's National Academy of Sciences, with colleagues from America, France and Germany, say the find is the strongest direct link between the earliest Eurasian hominids and their African relatives.

The partially complete skulls were found during excavation of a medieval castle at Dmanisi and show clear affinities with Homo ergaster, a hominid living in Africa at about the same time. The skulls share fewer common features with the Asian specimens of our more immediate ancestors, H. erectus, the team reported in the journal Science.

Some scientists have suggested that H. erectus was the first hominid species to leave Africa, but the latest find favours an earlier migration of a species directly descended from H. ergaster. "We suggest that these hominids may represent the species that initially dispersed from Africa and from which the Asian branch of H. erectus was derived," the scientists stated.

It would mean that the skulls belong to the first human migrants who moved out of Africa across what is now the Sinai peninsula, and spread into the Middle East and central Asia. "The Dmanisi site suggests a rapid dispersal from Africa into the Caucasus via the Levantine corridor, apparently followed by a much later colonisation of adjacent European areas," the scientists state.

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