martes, 22 de noviembre de 2016

Meet the frail, small-brained people who first trekked out of Africa


The ancient residents of Dmanisi had brains one-third to one-half the size of modern humans'.

On a promontory high above the sweeping grasslands of the Georgian steppe, a medieval church marks the spot where humans have come and gone along Silk Road trade routes for thousands of years. But 1.77 million years ago, this place was a crossroads for a different set of migrants. Among them were saber-toothed cats, Etruscan wolves, hyenas the size of lions—and early members of the human family.

Here, primitive hominins poked their tiny heads into animal dens to scavenge abandoned kills, fileting meat from the bones of mammoths and wolves with crude stone tools and eating it raw. They stalked deer as the animals drank from an ancient lake and gathered hackberries and nuts from chestnut and walnut trees lining nearby rivers. Sometimes the hominins themselves became the prey, as gnaw marks from big cats or hyenas on their fossilized limb bones now testify.

"Someone rang the dinner bell in gully one," says geologist Reid Ferring of the University of North Texas in Denton, part of an international team analyzing the site. "Humans and carnivores were eating each other."

This is the famous site of Dmanisi, Georgia, which offers an unparalleled glimpse into a harsh early chapter in human evolution, when primitive members of our genus Homo struggled to survive in a new land far north of their ancestors' African home [...]  Science | AAAS

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Nuevos estudios sobre los restos de homínidos de 1,77 MA hallados en Dmanisi (Georgia) alientan el debate evolutivo
 
Hace ya 25 años que las excavaciones en Dmanisi (Georgia) proporcionaron los fósiles del género Homo más antiguos fuera de África. Una reunión celebrada en Georgia el pasado mes de septiembre ha congregado a especialistas de todo el mundo en torno a los fósiles de Dmanisi y los últimos análisis al respecto, aportando nuevos datos al debate de si se trata de Homo erectus muy primitivos, con características de Homo habilis, o se trata de una nueva especie, o incluso de fósiles de todas ellas que ocuparan el lugar en distintos momentos. El caso es que se trata de unas gentes llenas de patologías dentales, con cuerpos de muy corta estatura y cráneos pequeños, que consiguieron recorrer más de 6000 kilómetros hacia el norte sin manejar aún el fuego...