Dmanisi in National Geographic

The article in the April 2005 National Geographic about Dmanisi has some interesting details that have not been made public before. The feature of the article is the D3444 skull, which I discuss in this post. But there are other points of interest.

The most significant is the short mention of the estimated stature of the Dmanisi partial skeletons. National Geographic says these are four feet seven inches, or 140 cm. To put this in perspective, the estimated adult height of KNM-WT 15000 is 180 cm or taller; the estimated height of AL 288-1 (Lucy) is 105 cm. The estimated stature for the KNM-ER 1472 femur, which is often assigned to H. rudolfensis and assumed to relate to the same population as the KNM-ER 1470 skull, is around 160 cm. So the Dmanisi hominids not only had habiline-sized brains; they also had habiline-sized bodies. Which makes them much more australopithecine-like than almost everyone had expected early humans to be.

There will be a lot of rewriting when these facts become official. Since the discovery of the Nariokotome specimen (KNM-WT 15000), there has been an emerging narrative of the evolution of early Homo. In this story, several anatomical and behavioral changes were confluent at a central speciation event that led to large-bodied Homo. These range from simple anatomical correlates, such as an increase in brain size, to far-flung behavioral inferences, such as the advent of menopause. All of these interpretations rest on the assumption that several behavioral and anatomical changes were coincident with the evolution of large body size. All of them now are thrown into question.

The other interesting feature is the John Gurche reconstructions of the Dmanisi crania. There is a multimedia presentation of the reconstruction of this and the other Dmanisi skulls at the National Geographic website. Like his other work, these are the best anatomical reconstructions of early Homo I've seen. I do wonder about the noses, though.