Fossil Skulls from Dmanisi: A Paleodeme Representing Earliest Homo in Eurasia

  • G. Philip Rightmire
  • David Lordkipanidze
Part of the Vertebrate Paleobiology and Paleoanthropology book series (VERT)


The Plio-Pleistocene site of Dmanisi has yielded much evidence bearing on the morphology and behavior of the earliest hominins from western Eurasia. Human remains, animal bones and stone artifacts were deposited at Dmanisi during a brief interval following the close of the Olduvai Subchron (1.77 million years ago). The hominin fossils now include an adult braincase (D2280), the partial skull of a young adult (D2282/D211), a large mandible (D2600), a small subadult skull (D2700/D2735), an edentulous cranium with lower jaw (D3444/D3900), and postcranial bones attributed to several individuals. The crania have capacities ranging from 600 to 775 cm3. Supraorbital tori and other vault superstructures are only moderately developed. Although there is variation related to ontogenetic age and sex dimorphism, it is appropriate to group the Dmanisi individuals together. Most probably, all of the hominins are sampled from one paleodeme. This population resembles Homo habilis in brain volume and some aspects of craniofacial morphology, but many of these features can be interpreted as symplesiomorphies. Other discrete characters and measurements suggest that the Dmanisi skulls are best placed with H. erectus. There are numerous similarities to individuals from the Turkana Basin in Kenya, but a few features link Dmanisi to Sangiran in Java. This evidence can be read to support an early dispersal of H. erectus from Africa to Eurasia. However, an alternative hypothesis must also be considered. Morphological comparisons of the fossils and findings from geochronology are consistent with the view that H. erectus evolved in Asia. Only later did representatives of this species disperse from western Asia to Africa and eastward toward Java and China.


Cranial anatomy Character analysis Systematics Human evolution Species Homo habilis Homo erectus 



We deeply appreciate the efforts of all of the students and professionals who have joined in the excavations and worked in the laboratory at Dmanisi, and we are grateful for the continuing support of the Georgian Academy of Sciences. For assistance with preparation of the hominin fossils at the Georgian National Museum and aspects of anatomical analysis, we are indebted to M. Bukhsianidze, T. Jashashvili, G. Kiladze, M. Ponce de Leon, A. Vekua and C. Zollikofer. R. Ferring and M. Tappen offered valuable advice. S. Kauffman and A. Hull helped with editing the photographs and preparing figures. G.P.R. thanks the American Philosophical Society, the Eckler Fund of Binghamton University, the Leakey Foundation and the National Science Foundation. D.L. acknowledges support from the Leakey Foundation and the National Geographic Society.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of AnthropologyHarvard UniversityCambridgeUSA
  2. 2.Department of AnthropologyBinghamton UniversityVestalUSA
  3. 3.Georgian National MuseumTbilisiGeorgia

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