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November 12, 2015

Ancient skulls reveal man’s early history

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On a journey tracing ancient man’s migration out of Africa and across the globe, journalist Paul Salopek made a stop in Southern Georgia at one of the most important sites in ancient human history.

The 1,400-year-old city of Dmanisi stands at a crossroads of migratory routes between Europe and Asia and hosts archaeological sites where researchers have unearthed 1.8 million-year-old remains of human ancestors.

The city’s layered history makes it an appropriate stop on Salopek’s walk across the world, which began in January 2013 in Ethiopia and follows the path early humans took out of Africa after the Ice Age, 70,000 to 100,000 years ago.

“What we found here, it changed our understanding about early traces of human evolution, about first dispersal of our ancestors,” said David Lordkipanidze , the director of Georgia’s National Museum.

A million years before Dmanisi was a Bronze Age settlement and later a wealthy medieval city conquered by a succession of civilizations, it was home to Homo erectus, an early ancestor of modern man.

Standing about five feet tall with a brain capacity about a third of the size of ours today, archaeologists continue to discover these early settlers’ remains at Dmanisi. By studying skulls found at the site, researchers discerned that Homo erectus took care of older and weaker individuals, demonstrating some of the first evidence of compassion and solidarity for early humans.

Only 10 percent of the archaeological site at Dmanisi has been excavated. Researchers hope to find out more about early man and the way he lived.

Learn more about Salopek’s Out of Eden walk and education resources here


Vocab

human migration – the temporary or permanent movement by people from one place to another, usually over long distances

Ice Age – one of many cold periods during which glaciers covered much of the Earth; the last Ice Age ended about 10,000 years ago

Silk Route or Silk Road – a network of trade and cultural routes in ancient and medieval times that stretched from China to the Middle East to Europe

evolution – the process that changes between modern plants and animals have occurred by a natural process over a very long time

Warm up questions
  1. Do you think it’s important to learn about how people lived 10,000 years ago?
  2. What do we know about the origins of our early human ancestors since the last Ice Age?
  3. What are some of the benefits of human beings from different cultures interacting with one another?
Critical thinking questions
  1. What types of lessons do you think historians could learn by tracing the paths of human beings along ancient and medieval trade routes?
  2. Do you think Salopek’s “Out of Eden” walk will help him learn more about history and different cultures? Explain.
  3. Would you ever take Salopek’s globe trekking journey out of Africa? Why or why not?
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