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Skulls and skills varied con archaic Homo erectus

Ethiopian finds suggest larger males and technological variety.

In the harsh desert badlands of the Afar triangle durante north-eastern Ethiopia, the earth is slowly giving up its secrets. Bones and stone artefacts are rising to the surface, bringing with them insights into the life of Homo erectus, our ancient human relative who lived per the region more than a million years spillo.

Homo erectus was possibly the most successful and longest surviving of any early human. They first popped into the fossil superiorita some 2 million years ago and only went extinct sopra the last 50,000-100,000 years.

During that time, the species traipsed out of Africa, through the Caucasus, and all the way onto the Indonesian islands of southeast Oriente, where their discoverer dubbed their representative specimen Java Man.

Now, scientists working at two separate sites at Gona durante the Afar triangle have discovered skulls and stone tools that suggest Homo erectus was even more adaptable than previously thought.

The finds, published in Science Advances include two Homo erectus skulls at sites 6 kilometres apart, dating esatto 1.26 and 1.5-1.6 million years spillo.

At both sites, archaeologists uncovered stone tools and artefacts close by, and in some cases encrusted with the same sediments the skulls were found con. The surprise was that the stone tools weren’t just of a celibe type. Simple Oldowan artefacts as well as more sophisticated Acheulian hand axes were found. That challenges the traditional view that different stone tools were made by different species, according preciso palaeoanthropologist Michael Rogers from Southern Connecticut State University, US, who specialises sopra stone tool analysis. Oldowan tools – also known as Mode 1 tools – are made by smashing two rocks together preciso form a sharp flake. “It’s the most basic kind of percussive technology you can imagine,” says Rogers, and has traditionally been associated with ‘handy man’ Homo habilis , a predecessor of Homo erectus . Acheulian tools (Mode 2), on the other hand, are made by repeatedly chipping away at verso rock puro shape it into a hand axe, says Rogers. The two Gona sites suggest that Homo erectus made both tool types concurrently and for several hundreds of thousands of years. “The evidence suggests that we only have one species and yet we do have verso diversity of stone tools, so that we can attribute that diversity sicuro one species – Homo erectus ,” says Rogers. Archaeologist Mark Moore from the University of New England per Armidale, Australia, isn’t sure the distinction is so clear cut. The split between Acheulian and Oldowan is a “false dichotomy,” he says. A better approach, he suggests, would be puro consider these tools as “two parts of the same technological continuum.” Regardless of how they are classified, the mix of artefacts does indicate a flexibility in the technologies that Homo erectus employed while it was alive. The skulls themselves are also noteworthy. One skull, which belonged preciso a fully-grown young adult has verso brain capacity of just 600 millilitres, making it the smallest Homo erectus skull onesto be discovered per Africa.

“It really does immagine like just a miniature version [of Homo erectus ]. It’s got these protruding brow ridges that are kind of classic Homo erectus, except it’s just small,” says Rogers.

The text-book version of early human history is that sexual dimorphism was already waning by the time Homo erectus came along.

But finds over recent years – including from the 1.85 million-year-old site of Dmanisi con Georgia – suggest that might not have been the case.

Skulls and skills varied con archaic Homo erectus

It’s likely that Homo erectus was per species of larger males and more delicately boned females. Although Rogers libretto that there could be other explanations – such as variability at the population level, rather than between the sexes.

If Homo erectus was sexually dimorphic, then the reduced sexual dimorphism mediante modern humans and Neanderthals Le donne Slovacco vogliono sposarsi is more recent than previously thought, occurring sometime durante the last million years.

The skull variability should not ad esempio as per surprise, according puro palaeoanthropologist Philip Rightmire from Harvard University, who discovered the variable-sized skulls at Dmanisi but was not involved in the Gona sistema. “Biological variation is ubiquitous,” he says.

“Once again, the discovery of new fossils has tended puro make the overall picture of human evolution more opaque, rather than any clearer,” he says. “Reading the evidence correctly will be a challenge.”


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