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In Photos: Amazing Human Ancestor Fossils from Dmanisi

Homo skull

The 1.8-million-year-old skull unearthed in Dmanisi, Georgia, suggests the earliest members of the <em>Homo</em> genus belonged to the same species, say scientists in a paper published Oct. 18, 2013 in the journal Science.

(Image credit: Photo courtesy of Georgian National Museum)

Researchers have analyzed a complete, approximately 1.8-million-year-old skull that was unearthed in Dmanisi, Georgia. The skull (called Skull 5), which was pieced together from the individual's cranium and mandible found separately, suggests the earliest members of our Homo genus (Homo habilis, Homo rudolfensis, Homo erectus and others) belonged to the same species and simply looked different from one another. The research is detailed in the Oct. 18, 2013, issue of the journal Science.

Old Cranium

The cranium of a 1.8-million-year-old human lineage discovered in Dmanisi, the Republic of Georgia, next to a large rodent tooth.

(Image credit: Photo courtesy of Georgian National Museum)

The skull was discovered alongside the remains of four other early human ancestors, a variety of animal fossils and some stone tools, all of them associated with the same location and time period. (The fossil's cranium shown here next to a large rodent tooth.)

Unique Features

skull of an ancient human lineage found in Dmanisi

(Image credit: Photo courtesy of Guram Bumbiashvili, Georgian National Museum)

Unlike other Homo fossils, Skull 5 (whose face is shown here) combines a small braincase with a long face and large teeth — features that had not been observed together in an early Homo fossil until now.

Dmanisi cranium

Here, the Dmanisi cranium alongside herbivore fossil remains in situ at the excavation site in Dmanisi, Republic of Georgia.

(Image credit: Photo courtesy of Georgian National Museum)

Here, the Dmanisi cranium alongside herbivore fossil remains in situ at the excavation site in Dmanisi, Republic of Georgia.

Beneath the Skin

illustration of ancient human species discovered in dmanisi

(Image credit: Art courtesy of J.H. Matternes)

This illustration reveals what the Homo species discovered in Dmanisi, Republic of Georgia, would have looked like beneath the skin when it lived some 1.8 million years ago.

What a looker!

An artist's conception revealing what "Skull 5" may have looked like some 1.8 million years ago when he (the scientists suspect the remains come from a male) lived.

(Image credit: Art courtesy of J.H. Matternes)

An artist's conception revealing what "Skull 5" may have looked like some 1.8 million years ago when he (the scientists suspect the remains come from a male) lived.

Medieval Dmanisi

An aerial view of the Dmanisi medieval town with the excavation site, where researchers discovered the skull of an extinct human species, on the right.

(Image credit: Photo courtesy of Fernando Javier Urquijo)

An aerial view of the Dmanisi medieval town with the excavation site, where researchers discovered the skull of an extinct human species, on the right.

Dmanisi Excavation

An aerial view of the Dmanisi excavation site (foreground), which has been just partially excavated so far, and a medieval town.

(Image credit: Photo courtesy of Fernando Javier Urquijo)

An aerial view of the Dmanisi excavation site (foreground), which has been just partially excavated so far, and a medieval town.

Skull Line-up

Here the five skulls, including Skull 5, discovered at Dmanisi in the Republic of Georgia and dating back some 1.8 million years.

(Image credit: Image courtesy of M. Ponce de León and Ch. Zollikofer, University of Zurich, Switzerland)

Here the five skulls, including Skull 5, discovered at Dmanisi in the Republic of Georgia and dating back some 1.8 million years.

Skulls in a Setting

Here the five skulls, including Skull 5, discovered at Dmanisi in the Republic of Georgia and dating back some 1.8 million years, with a Dmanisi landscape in the background.

(Image credit: Image courtesy of M. Ponce de León and Ch. Zollikofer, University of Zurich, Switzerland)

Here the five skulls, including Skull 5, discovered at Dmanisi in the Republic of Georgia and dating back some 1.8 million years, with a Dmanisi landscape in the background.