(Correcting H7214. Spelling of director Lotkipanidze; clarifies skull identified as from early member of genus Homo, sted Homo erectus, corrects to Western Europe in 5th par, changes headline)
Tbilisi, Georgia, Aug 22 AP – Archaeologists in the former Soviet republic of Georgia have unearthed a skull they say is 1.8 million years old, and part of a find that holds the oldest traces of humankind’s closest ancestors ever found in Europe.
The Homo skull was found earlier this month in Dmanisi, an area about 100km southeast of the capital, Tbilisi, Georgian National Museum director David Lortkipanidze, who took part in the dig, said by telephone.
In total, five bone fragments believed to be the same age have been found in the area, including a jawbone discovered in 1991, Lortkipanidze said. The skull, however, was in the best condition of the five, and was sent on Sunday to the museum for further study.
"Practically all the remains have been found in one place. This indicates that we have found a place of settlement of primitive people," he said of the spot, where archaeologists have been working since 1939.
The findings in Georgia – which researchers said were about one million years older than any widely accepted pre-human remains in Western Europe and were the oldest found outside Africa – have provided additional evidence that human ancestors left Africa a half-million years or more earlier than scientists had previously thought.
Million-year-old fossils of hominids – extinct creatures of the extended ancestral family of modern humans – have been found in Africa, the Middle East, Asia, but not in Western Europe. Georgia is south of the Caucasus Mountains and northeast of Turkey, but is considered part of Europe.
APjm 23/08/05 08-01NZ