October 22, 2013

Johanson calls recent Dmanisi discovery 'mind-boggling'

Posted: October 22, 2013
Donald Johanson
Donald Johanson, founding director of the ASU Institute of Human Origins.
Photo by: Donald Johanson

Variation of the type found in a new series of 1.8-million-year-old skulls discovered in Dmanisi, Georgia – an area between the Caspian and Black Seas – is not unusual in our species, says Donald Johanson, founding director of ASU’s Institute of Human Origins. The discovery, however, is in a totally unanticipated place and may revolutionize our ideas of when and why our ancestors left Africa.

Providing expert analysis and commentary on the PBS News Hour on Oct. 18, Johanson points to this discovery as a possible first exploration of our genus outside of Africa; “man the explorer – part of what it means to be human,” he said.

The discovery was published in the Oct. 18 issue of the journal Science, with authors from international institutions, including Yoel Rak, an international affiliate of the Institute of Human Origins. Johanson is not one of the article’s authors.

Johanson is a world-renowned paleoanthropologist who has published nine books and many scientific papers on human origins and is the Virginia M. Ullman Chair in Human Origins and professor in the School of Human Evolution and Social Change.

Johanson discovered the 3.2 million-year-old fossil skeleton, popularly known as “Lucy,” in Ethiopia in 1974, which was a new species, Australopithecus afarensis, and identified as the first bipedal human ancestor.

A full transcript and video of Johanson’s analysis and commentary is available on the PBS News Hour website at http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/science/july-dec13/ancestry2_10-18.html.

Julie Russ, jruss@asu.edu
Institute Of Human Origins