1. Skip to content
  2. Skip to main menu
  3. Skip to more DW sites

Dig unearths 1.8-million-year-old human tooth

September 9, 2022

A British student found the 1.8-million-year-old early human tooth in Georgia, in South Caucasus, which is home to one of the earliest prehistoric settlements outside of Africa.

Giorgi Bidzinashvili demonstrates a tooth belonging to an early species of human, near the village of Orozmani
Archaeologists discovered a fourth premolar mandibular tooth of an early Homo erectus in GeorgiaImage: David Chkhikvishvili/REUTERS

Archaeologists in Georgia have found a 1.8-million-year-old tooth belonging to an early human species. The scientists say the find cements the region as home to one of the earliest prehistoric archaic human settlements in Europe, possibly anywhere outside of Africa.

The National Research Center of Archaeology and Prehistory of Georgia reported on Thursday that scientists discovered the tooth near the village of Orozmani, about 100 kilometers (60 miles) southwest of Georgia's capital, Tbilisi.

Both stone tools and animal remains were found earlier on the territory of the Orozmani archaeological monument, but this is the first time that the remains of Homo erectus were found there.

Orozmani is located near the town of Dmanisi, where human skulls dated to 1.8-million years old were found in the late 1990s and early 2000s. The Dmanisi finds were the world's oldest discovery of its kind outside of Africa and one that changed scientists' understanding of early human evolution and migration patterns.

Georgia's place in human history

The recent discovery, at a site 20 kilometers from Dmanisi, provides further evidence that the mountainous South Caucasus region was likely one of the first places where early humans settled after migrating from Africa, experts said.

"Orozmani, together with Dmanisi, represents the center of the oldest distribution of old humans — or early Homo — in the world outside Africa," the National Research Centre of Archaeology and Prehistory of Georgia said, announcing the discovery of the tooth.

Giorgi Bidzinashvili demonstrates a tooth belonging to an early species of human, near the village of Orozmani
Bidzinashvili holds a tooth belonging to an early species of human, which was recovered from rock layers presumably dated to 1.8 million years oldImage: David Chkhikvishvili/REUTERS

Giorgi Bidzinashvili, the excavation team's scientific leader, said he considered the tooth to belong to a "cousin" of Zezva and Mzia, the names given to two nearly complete 1.8-million-year-old fossilized skulls found in Dmanisi.

"The implications, not just for this site, but for Georgia and the story of humans leaving Africa 1.8 million years ago, are enormous," said British archaeology student Jack Peart, who first found the tooth at Orozmani.

"It solidifies Georgia as a really important place for paleoanthropology and the human story in general," he said.

Oldest remains outside Africa

The oldest Homo fossils anywhere in the world date to about 2.8 million years ago. It was a partial jaw discovered in modern-day Ethiopia.

Scientists believe that early humans, a hunter-gatherer species called Homo erectus, probably began migrating out of Africa about 2 million years ago. Ancient tools dated to about 2.1 million years have been discovered in modern-day China, but the Georgia sites hold the oldest remains of early humans yet recovered outside of Africa.

Modern anatomical humans, Homo sapiens, are thought to have emerged about 300,000 years ago, though estimates vary, in Africa.

How old is humankind?

dh/msh (Reuters, TASS)