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Homo Erectus Discovery
APRIL 2005
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Evolutionary Highway
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Homo Erectus Discovery Map
New Branch on the Family Tree
Found in the shadow of a ruined medieval castle near the small town of Dmanisi in the former Soviet republic of Georgia, four skulls and other bones provide a rare snapshot of what could be a single population of hominins, as anthropologists now call human ancestors. Even if they didn't actually set eyes on one another, a handful of individuals living at the same site in a relatively short time span can be thought of as a population, a group that closely shared genes and lifestyles. At places like Olduvai in Tanzania, individual fossils are so far apart in time—hundreds of thousands of years or more—that scientists argue over whether differences among them indicate different species or just the kind of variations you might see among people today. At Dmanisi, for the first time, anthropologists are getting a good look at a population, young and old. They're starting to appreciate just how much variety can crop up within a single group. And the range of features they're seeing is helping them fit Dmanisi into humanity's evolutionary odyssey.
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