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  Field Notes From
Georgian Skull Find



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From Author

Rick Gore



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From Photographer

Gouram Tsibakhashvili



In most cases these accounts are edited versions of a spoken interview. They have not been researched and may differ from the printed article.

Photographs by Todd James (top), and David Lordkipanidze
 

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Georgian Skull Find

Field Notes From Author
Rick Gore
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The view from the plateau on which the medieval village of Dmanisi was built is spectacular. The town overlooks a strategic point along the ancient Silk Road, and it grew rich in the Middle Ages by taxing the caravans that passed by. Time seems lost as you look down into the valley where in past centuries so many travelers moved between the continents. The new fossils coming out of the area filled my imagination not only with Marco Polo and spice-laden camels but also with visions of lean, barely human pioneers. About 1.7 million years earlier, they had moved through this same valley, digging tubers or butchering a carcass with simple stone tools—an image I had reserved in my mind for the grasslands of East Africa.



Traveling to the republic of Georgia in 1995, a few years after it achieved independence from the former Soviet Union, had its difficulties. Advanced ticketing on Air Georgia was not possible then. Getting a seat on one of its infrequent flights from Western Europe required showing up at the Frankfurt Airport a couple of hours before the flight with hard cash in hand. Arrival in Tbilisi, the capital, was claustrophobic. Scores of passengers were herded into the tiny arrival area, where we had to push and shove to find our baggage while also trying to hold a place in the lines to obtain visas and get stamped in by churlish immigration agents. The situation has improved enormously, I hear, but in those days it was definitely like being in a cattle car.



I had not seen David Lordkipanidze in six years, not since visiting him in Georgia for the “Dawn of Humans” coverage. So when he called to say he was in Washington, D.C., and had something to show me, I arranged to meet him at his hotel. We met for a drink at the hotel bar, and once seated, he pulled out casts of the new skull and jawbone from Dmanisi and laid them on the table in front of us. Our waiter, meanwhile, came to take our drink order. After we ordered beers, he looked at the skull on the table and asked deadpan, “Will he be having something?”





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