Four of the oldest proto-humans outside Africa have been found in a small village in Georgia. It looks like a family of three adults and one adolescent who have been attacked by animals.
The village of Dmanisi in Georgia (the Eastern European one, not the American one) seems a treasure-trove for paleontologists looking to complete their (and our) family tree. The oldest human fossils outside of Africa are found here.
An earlier find consisted of six skulls and stone tools. Now, Noorderlicht reports that parts of four skeletons have been digged up by a team led by David Lordkipanidze. They belonged to three adults and an adolescent. It is not yet certain to which species they belong, but it is assumed that they are fairly early homo erectus, an upright species with a relatively small skull that is assumed to be one of our direct ancestors. This species seems to have appeared about 1.9 million years ago in Africa. Approximately 100,000 years later it started to spread itself around the world.
Since the earlier find consisted only of skulls, it was not known how their users looked like. The skulls were quite small, and because of that, it was assumed that they belonged to individuals of an early period in the migration. Later homo erectus have larger skulls.
Thanks to this new find, scientists know a little more about the bodies of early men. Skulls are less fragile than other body parts and because of that, little is known about the bodies of early ape-men and man-apes. Arms, legs, shoulders and spines have been found. It shows that this type of early man looked quite a bit like us, with long legs and hollow feet, ideal for running very long distances and to run after animals. Their upper parts look a lot more ape-like, especially given the way their arms are attached to their bodies.
The dig is still active and it is hoped that other surprises will surface that may fill some of the large gaps in our knowledge about this part of our past.