Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

Of heads and headlines: can a skull doom 14 human species?

By Darren Curnoe

A newly discovered 1.8 million-year-old skull from Eastern Europe has been pitched as disproving a decades-old paradigm in human evolution.

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Its discoverers claim the find sinks more than a dozen species into a single evolutionary line leading to living people. But the new study highlights the propensity of some anthropologists to overstep the mark, interpreting the importance of their finds in a way that grabs the headlines.

More big claims

The more-than-150-year history of human evolutionary science is filled with many remarkable and headline-grabbing episodes.

Some of them were proved correct: Eugene Dubois’ 1891-92 discovery of Pithecanthropus (now Homo erectus), Raymond Dart’s 1925 announcement of Australopithecus africanus, and more recently, Michael Morwood and co-worker’s 2004 announcement of Homo floresiensis.

But today’s article in Science by David Lordkipanidze and co-workers is going to make an even bigger splash, by challenging a well-established paradigm.

They described and compared a new skull from the Dmanisi site in Georgia, dated to around 1.8 million years old. It is one of five...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.