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The First Humans Out of Africa: The Journey of Mankind

I went to see the exhibit in ASP’s Albert Hall which is entitled, “The First Humans Out
of Africa: The Journey of Mankind.” It is only quite a small exhibit in the lobby but still very
interesting and informational. I have learned that this exhibit is a set of casts of skulls of the
fossilized remains of our ancestors found in Georgia, together with fossils of extinct animals
and stone tools that early humans made and used. Initially, the things I noticed first were an
Etruscan dog’s skull and lower jaw; a Saber-tooth cat’s skull; and, a Southern elephant’s upper
tooth—in which the last two strongly reminded me of some characters in one of my favorite
animated movies of all time, Ice Age.
From the exhibit’s overview, Dmanisi is one of the better-known sites for human
evolution in the world—which I think makes it a very advantageous site for many
archaeologists and other researchers. The site of Dmanisi is located on a promontory
overlooking the point at which two rivers, the Mashavera and Pinasauri, meeting
approximately 100 meters below it. Initially, archaeologists were excavating the area for
artifacts and structures from the Iron Age to the Medieval period. However, after the discovery
of the teeth of a Rhinoceros and a human jaw, the Dmanisi site has yielded thousands of
fossilized animal remains and stone tools and a significant number of human fossils, and
continues to do so.
According to the text on the exhibit’s wall, the Dmanisi Hominids are important because
without the discovery of the Dmanisi hominid fossils, several prevailing beliefs in
paleoanthropology would not have been proven wrong. Before, it is believed that humans only
left Africa 1 million years ago. To do so, they needed bigger brains and bigger bodies. It is
also believed that they had to have more advanced and sophisticated tool kit for survival.
However, a team of researchers found a number of complete skulls dating back to between
1.77 to 2 million years ago in Dmanisi, Georgia; humans there actually had small brains and
small bodies—they were of small stature unlike what is believed before; and in addition, these
pioneers possessed primitive stone tools manufactured from the pebbles and cobbles
available in the valleys of the Mashavera and Pinasauri rivers as well as from cretaceous
rocks, as opposed to the well-developed ones that the researchers had expected. All of these
discoveries that contradict the researchers’ initial observations or hypotheses meant that man
has evolved faster and much earlier than expected.
For me, this is one of the reasons why the study of archaeology is important.
Archeology helps us widen our understanding of humans and their past interactions with
objects and architecture beyond what is simply written in the history books. Archaeology
reveals cultural ways and artifacts that can help in identification of historical incorrect views
and understandings. Without many of these things that archeologists have discovered, our
past as written by history books may be very different.
Another interesting topic is written on the exhibit wall which says that the stone artifacts
from Dmanisi share similarities with artifacts found in Oldowan sites in Africa and Eurasia—all
having simple core-flake technologies, but keeping their own peculiarity in terms of abundance
of new materials, making Dmanisi quite different from the rest of the sites. In unearthing
history, technology is really a big deal on how it affects the study of human activity through the
recovery and analysis of material culture, for not only it has helped the early people’s survival
but it has also added color to the rich history of mankind.
The exhibit also discussed about meat eating, as it is said that Dmanisi hominids were
meat-eaters as shown by the cut marks found on animal bones that were made with stone
flakes when removing meat from these bones of different mammals. This shows that not only
did they mostly hunted their prey but they also had to protect themselves from the dangerous
predators such as saber-tooth cats, wolves, and hyenas. An increase in meat-eating is thought
to be an important step for the hominids to spread out of Africa since there was less food of
plant origins available during winter at the higher latitudes such as Dmanisi. Because of all
these, I can say that man is really intelligent for we always naturally tend to adapt well to our
surroundings for convenience and survival, no matter at which point of time of mankind we
The casts used by scientists of the five different Dmanisi hominid skulls are also
included in the traveling exhibit—the most prominent of which is D4500 which was found in
2005. It is the most well-preserved cranium from about 1.77 million years ago. I found the skull
really fascinating in its form as I look at it through the glass. It says here that the skull remains
undamaged and free from any deformation due to being fossilized for a longer time. The other
hominid skulls I have read from the wall text were the large mandible D2600 with its teeth worn
down to the roots which looks really well-developed; the skull D2700 with the associated
mandible D2735 with partially erupted third molars or wisdom teeth—damage can be
observed on some areas but otherwise the said specimen is in good condition; and the
toothless skull D3444 and associated mandible D3900 which is described as clearly an adult,
displaying many of the features typical of males of the genus.
All in all, the exhibit aimed to impart learning which focuses on telling the story of the
distant past through the scientific materials and evidence from the early humans. The people
behind this exhibit made sure that the relics and artifacts on display would be interesting and
relevant to the public. I have also realized how the role of archaeology here becomes crucial.
Not only is Archaeology necessary to forge points of unity and points of diversity in varied
cultures and civilizations, but it also helps in discovering and rediscovering ourselves.