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8 June 2011
Were ancient human migrations two-way streets?

Dmanisi, in the Republic of Georgia (a long-studied archaeological site in a mountainous region between Europe and Asia), was occupied by early humans as long as 1.85 million years ago - much earlier than the previous estimate of 1.7 million years ago, and at the same time as, if not before, the first appearance of Homo erectus in east Africa.
     A research team led by Reid Ferring of the University of North Texas (USA), and David Lordkipanidze of the Georgia National Museum uncovered more than 100 stone artefacts in deep layers at the site. Previously, fossil bones from a later period had been found at the site.
     The discovery of  stone tools and materials from a much earlier date shows that the Caucasus region was inhabited by a sustained population - not just transitory colonists - and raises the possibility that Homo erectus evolved in Eurasia and might have migrated back to Africa.
     Lordkipanidze calls the occupants of Dmanisi, "the first representatives of our own genus outside Africa, and the most primitive population of the species Homo erectus known to date." The geographic origins of Homo erectus are still unknown.
     Homo erectus, heavier, or more robust, than modern humans, and with characteristic brow ridges, has some overlap with the earlier Homo habilis and was the first of the species to spread widely outside of Africa.

Edited from Newsobserver.com, Associated Press (6 June 2011)

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