A trove of the oldest human skeletal bones outside Africa is reported in Nature this week — a find that will help researchers to improve their understanding of the biology of the 1.8-million-year-old hominins. The work, led by researchers from the Georgian National Museum in Tbilisi, describes three-dozen fossils from the skeletons of four primitive Homo erectus individuals found in recent years at Dmanisi in Georgia, central Asia.
H. erectus is thought to have migrated across Asia after coming out of Africa, where the oldest relative of man is traced to nearly 7 million years ago. H. erectus fossils have been found from Africa across Asia as far as Indonesia. Typically there are only a few scattered fossils at one location. A single site with so many bones from so many individuals is rare. And they date back to very soon after H. erectus’s exodus from Africa.
“Dmanisi is a real gift, because nothing in the world exists like this for this time,” says lead author David Lordkipanidze.