Annual Meeting News

November 14, 2014

Presidential Plenary Explores New Insights on Human Evolution from Dmanisi, Georgia


When did early humans first migrate out of Africa? And to which species of hominin did these people belong? These are two of the most important questions in palaeoanthropology today, and new discoveries at the site of Dmanisi in Georgia may provide answers. At the 2015 Annual Meeting, new evidence and several possible hypotheses will be discussed in the colloquium, “Great Discoveries in Archaeology: New Insights on Human Evolution from Dmanisi, Georgia,” organized by AIA President Andrew M.T. Moore. 

Excavations have yielded numerous human fossils, including well-preserved skulls of at least five individuals and Oldowan-type tools. Radiometric dates for these remains date as far back as approximately 1.8 million years ago, suggesting that humans began to people Europe and Asia very early. The hominid fossils from Dmanisi are unusually well-preserved and, according to the excavation team, all belong to Homo erectus. This hypothesis would considerably change our perception of human evolution and migration that have prevailed until most recently. 

Reid Ferring will examine the geological context of Dmanisi deposits and the chronological evidence derived from stratigraphy, paleomagnetism, and Argon-argon dating. The abundance of Oldowan chipped stone artifacts indicate that the site was inhabited repeatedly over 80,000 years. 

Martha Tappen reviews the hominin and mammal remains at Dmanisi and makes determinations on the role of hunting and scavenging, the nature of interactions with superpredators, environmental changes, and social behaviors. 

Francesco Berna presents the results of microscopic, chemical, and mineralogical tests on bone material and associated sediments. These results have broader implications for taphonomic studies, stratigraphic correlation, and isotopic and molecular studies. 

Ian Tattersall examines the morphology of the five crania and other hominin bones discovered at Dmanisi and theorizes that they belong to multiple species of Homo, not one sub-species as suggested by others on the Dmanisi research team. 

Michael Chazan identifies a trend of increasing brain size within Homo erectus, one consistent with technological developments such as use of fire, tool manufacture, and hunting techniques. 

Session 4G will take place on Saturday morning January 10th, 2015 from 8:00a.m.-10:30a.m.  at the Sheraton New Orleans Hotel an introduction will be given by AIA President Dr. Moore.

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