Fossils Hint at Who Left Africa First

4:01pm, October 25, 2002

An excavation in central Asia has unearthed a pair of 1.7-million-year-old fossil skulls, providing a glimpse of what may have been the first species of human ancestors to journey out of Africa.

The partial skulls resemble Homo ergaster, a contested fossil species dating to around the same time in eastern Africa, concludes a team led by anthropologist Leo Gabunia of the Republic of Georgia National Academy of Sciences in Tbilisi. The skulls showed fewer links to Homo erectus specimens in eastern Asia from as early as 1.6 million years ago.

"[H. ergaster] may represent the species that initially dispersed from Africa and from which the Asian branch of H. erectus was derived," Gabunia and his coworkers assert in the May 12 Science.

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