Monday, January 07, 2008

Georgians lay claim to 'first Europeans'
Back in 1991, when archaeologists first unearthed a human jaw bone in these rolling hills, few in the outside world had even heard of tiny Georgia.

The idea that an ex-Soviet republic collapsing in civil war and poverty could be an integral part of the West was laughable.

Then scientists determined the jawbone and dozens of other fragments to be at least 1.7 million years old - the earliest human remains discovered outside Africa and therefore, logically, the ancestors of all Europe and Asia.

"It was a sensation," said Nana Rezesidze, an archaeologist from Georgia's State Museum, at the forested dig site, located on a hillside overlooking a grey-blue mountain river.

It's actually more about the current political situation than archaeology or paleontology. They make the argument that the Dmanisi find, among others, works to unite current Georgians with their own (independent) past and with Europe as a whole.