New find from Dmanisi ‘rewrites’ human evolution….again.

There’s been much speculation in the press about the science paper that described the discovery of a complete skull and mandible from Dmanisi:

A Complete Skull from Dmanisi, Georgia, and the Evolutionary Biology of Early Homo David Lordkipanidze et al. Science 342, 326 (2013); DOI: 10.1126/science.1238484

Once again we’re treated to headlines and badly informed speculation about how the ‘textbooks are going to have to be rewritten’. In reality this is not going to impact that much. Nothing like the impact of say the discovery of H. floresiensis. We have always known that there are problems applying the bio species concept to fossils – especially when dealing with hominins as the record is so fragmentary. Coupled with the fact that the taxonomic status of H. habilis and H. rudolfensis has been very questionable for the last 15 years and the story as the press have presented it loses part of its sensational gleam. The find is amazing and does represent a massive contribution to our knowledge of Homo ergaster/erectus – effectively extending our understanding of intra-specific variation. But while this extends what gets given what label the impact is really going to be a semantic one rather than anything else….

 

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