Hominid Skulls Found in Caucasus

ByABC News
December 22, 2000, 11:10 AM

W A S H I N G T O N, May 12 -- Three skulls dug from under amedieval town in the former Soviet Republic of Georgia and dating back 1.7 million years mayrepresent the first pre-humans who migrated out of Africa andinto Europe, researchers said on Thursday.

The skulls look like those of early humans who lived in EastAfrica at the same time, and a wealth of tools found at the sitelook like tools made by the African pre-humans.

Previously Thought Too Primitive

This is surprising because archaeologists had believed thespecies of hominid, called Homo ergaster, was too primitive tohave made the long and difficult journey from African savanna tothe challenging terrain of Europe.

These constitute the first well-documented humans thatcame out of Africa, Reid Ferring, a geologist andarchaeologist at the University of North Texas at Denton whoworked on the study, said in a telephone interview.

We suggest that these hominids may represent the samespecies that initially dispersed from Africa and from which theAsian branch of H. erectus was derived, the team of U.S.,Georgian, French and German scientists wrote in their report,published in the journal Science.

We are dealing with people who are very closely related tofolks in East Africa at the time, Ferring said.

The finding suggests the hominids moved quickly out ofAfrica across the Levant, what is now Syria and Lebanon, intoTurkey and up into Georgia.

Ferring said Homo ergaster falls in between the moreprimitive Homo habilis and Homo erectus, a robust creature withadvanced stone tools that just about everyone thought was thefirst to move out of Africa to populate Asia and Europe.

Jump Out of Africa?

It had been assumed that hominids had to develop morephysically and technologically to make the jump out of Africainto the strange and extreme terrain of Eurasia.

It appears that people were ready to get out of Africaearlier than we thought, Ferring said.