Bio206: DMANISI PALEOANTHROPOLOGY FIELD SCHOOL
Dmanisi Paleoanthropology Field School (DPFS) is a four-week field course in paleoanthropology at the site of Dmanisi, Georgia. It starts in the last week of July and continues in August. DPFS is a combination of theoretical course work and practical training. By the end of the course students will choose a research project and prepare a final presentation.
The first three weeks are a combination of theoretical course and practical training. The theoretical course features lectures in archaeology, geology, anthropology, paleontology, taphonomy; the practical training involves instruction in archaeological techniques and excavation at the Dmanisi site. By the end of the third week students will choose a topic for a potential research project. Students will build up the teams, work with each other and the field school faculty to finalize their project presentation, which they will present on the final day of the program.
CREDIT POINTS (ECTS)
After completing the course students will acquire or deepen their skills and knowledge in:
At the end of the course, all students will be awarded completion certificates.
DPFS students excavating the site
THE SITE OF DMANISI
The Lower Paleolithic site of Dmanisi (East Georgia) has the fascinating and unusual context of being located underneath the medieval ruins of an ancient town and fortress. The Paleolithic excavations are conducted within the walls of these ancient structures. The Paleolithic site has been known since 1983 when fossilized bones of extinct animals were found in the walls of household pits of the Dmanisi medieval town. These remains were identified as a late-middle Villafranchian fauna, of approximately 1.8-1.7 million years in age. The discovery of primitive stone tools in 1984 began a new page not only in the history of the site excavations, but in understanding one of the major events in human evolution: the hominin dispersal out of Africa from the cradle of mankind. Since then the systematic excavations have been ongoing at Dmanisi, each year yielding more information, more surprises, new species, new specimens of Homo, and new paleoenvironmental evidence.
1983 A tooth of a Plio-Pleistocene rhinoceros, demonstrating that the medieval site of Dmanisi covers the secrets of the early Pleistocene.
1984 First stone tools, indicating that Dmanisi is one of the oldest places of human occupation.
1991 Mandible D211. This first hominin remain opened the debate about to the first human dispersal out of Africa.
1999 Two hominin crania D2280, D2282. These finds demonstrate that Dmanisi hominins are the oldest humans outside of Africa.
2000 Mandible D2600, raising the possibility of two different species at Dmanisi at the same time.
2000 Absolute dating. Uneroded basaltic lava under site is securely dated to 1.85 million years ago.
2004 Toothless hominin cranium and mandible - D3444 and D3900. This individual lived several years before death after having lost its teeth. Its condition suggests it could only eat soft plants and animal foods with the help of other individuals.
2007 Postcranial remains of four individuals, partly associated with crania found earlier.
SIGNIFICANCE OF DMANISI
Dmanisi crossroad of Africa, Asia, and Europe, place of the first hominin dispersal out of Africa.
Discoveries of Homo remains, including several crania and mandibles with numerous post-cranial remains all dated to ca. 1.77 million years, have reopened the debate about the first human dispersal from Africa. The human fossils found at Dmanisi are the oldest outside Africa by more than half a million years. Before the Dmanisi discoveries, it was thought that the first migrants should have been quite tall, big-brained, and having well-developed stone tools, otherwise, they would not be able to survive out of Africa. However, the Dmanisi hominins contradicted these assumptions: they were physically small, and had small brains. Also, these pioneers were armed with primitive stone tools, and thus did not possess the well-developed tool-making techniques researchers had expected. Among the Dmanisi fossils is the skull and jaw of a toothless old adult. This individual could only survive by eating food that did not require heavy chewing, such as soft plants and animal foods, or by virtue of help from other individuals. The Dmanisi hominins exhibit numerous archaic physical characteristics, typical of early African hominins, but they also share certain similarities with later Homo erectus. It is possible that they could be the ancestors of both the African and Asian branches of Homo erectus. In addition to providing fossil material from several individuals, Dmanisi presents a unique opportunity for paleoanthropologists to study a population of different generations - subadult, adult and old adult. Overall, Dmanisi is a remarkable site, preserving not only one of the most important Paleolithic occupations of Eurasia, but also a rich archaeological record of Georgias Medieval period.
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