The English media is full of articles about the Dmanisi fossils, based on a talk by David Lordkipanidze at the British Science Festival. The articles mention the discovery of five or six specimens, with some giving the impression that these are new discoveries. The New Scientist commented that “it’s not clear whether Lordkipanidze was presenting new data, or simply wrapping up the story so far for a more lay audience at the festival.” However some of the other newspapers such as the Guardian clarified that most of these fossils were discovered early this decade, along with another recent discovery that is not yet published. According to The Times, this recent find is “a fifth well-preserved skull, the most complete yet”, which will make it a spectacular fossil. This is probably the specimen shown a photo in many of the articles, still half-embedded in rock.
As is usual, a number of newspapers somewhat overstated the significance of the find, especially the Daily Mail with its headline “Ancient skeletons discovered in Georgia threaten to overturn the theory of human evolution”. This is highly misleading. The Dmanisi fossils are a tremendous discovery, and may well change our ideas about some details of where, when, and how we evolved, but they’re certainly not going to overturn the idea of human evolution. They are actually superb evidence for human evolution.
The Dmanisi hominids are from the country of Georgia (http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/homs/d2700.html). A number of skulls have been found so far, ranging from about 850 cc (the lower end of the H. erectus range) down to 600 cc (well into the H. habilis range). In 2007, details of some skeletal material was published.
The brain sizes of these skulls straddle the gap that creationists like to claim exists between humans and australopithecines. The skulls are also intermediate anatomically, looking like primitive H. erectus skulls with some habilis features. The same is true of the skeletal material: the creatures were indisputably bipedal, but have a number of primitive features.
Naturally, creationists don’t have a clue what these fossils are. Some of them think they’re humans, some think they’re apes, and, as I blogged last year, they’re both wrong:
Note: In the initial version of this post, I thought the articles were referring to new fossil discoveries, which turned out to be (mostly) not the case, so the post has been corrected accordingly.