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A Heady Find
In the past two decades, excavations at the archaeological site at Dmanisi, Georgia, have revealed hominin fossils from the earliest Pleistocene, soon after the genus Homo first dispersed beyond Africa. Lordkipanidze et al. (p. 326; see the cover) now describe a fossil cranium from the site. Combined with mandibular remains that had been found earlier, this find completes the first entire hominin skull from this period.
The site of Dmanisi, Georgia, has yielded an impressive sample of hominid cranial and postcranial remains, documenting the presence of Homo outside Africa around 1.8 million years ago. Here we report on a new cranium from Dmanisi (D4500) that, together with its mandible (D2600), represents the world's first completely preserved adult hominid skull from the early Pleistocene. D4500/D2600 combines a small braincase (546 cubic centimeters) with a large prognathic face and exhibits close morphological affinities with the earliest known Homo fossils from Africa. The Dmanisi sample, which now comprises five crania, provides direct evidence for wide morphological variation within and among early Homo paleodemes. This implies the existence of a single evolving lineage of early Homo, with phylogeographic continuity across continents.