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Keywords:

  • mandible;
  • dentition;
  • Homo;
  • H. ergaster;
  • Dmanisi

Abstract

The recent discovery of unexpectedly ancient human remains has fuelled interest about the first dispersion of Homo outside Africa. The Dmanisi mandible is perhaps one of the most interesting findings, as it supposedly represents one of the oldest hominids outside of Africa. Recently, different interpretations have been published about this specimen. Our comparison of the Dmanisi mandible with a large sample of mandibles and teeth has led us to a new interpretation. In our view, the Dmanisi mandible exhibits a unique combination of traits. Some of its features, taken in isolation, may be attributed to morphological extremes within the genus Homo. The architecture of the mandible as well as the morphology and dimensions of incisors, canines, and P3s are clearly primitive. However, dental traits such as the reduction of the talonid in the P4s and a distally decreasing molar series seems to be derived. Some combinations of these traits are found in specimens of Homo ergaster and differ from those generally present in later hominids. Thus, we propose that the Dmanisi mandible might be taxonomically classified as Homo sp. indet. (aff. ergaster). Furthermore, some aspects of the dentition in Dmanisi display close similarities to Asian Homo erectus. If the 1.8–1.6 Myr dating for the Dmanisi mandible is correct, the differentiation of the Asian branch of the genus Homo could be regarded as a very ancient event. Am J Phys Anthropol 107:145–162, 1998. © 1998 Wiley-Liss, Inc.