Variation among early Homo crania from Olduvai Gorge and the Koobi Fora region

G P Rightmire
American Journal of Physical Anthropology 1993, 90 (1): 1-33
Fossils recognized as early Homo were discovered first at Olduvai Gorge in 1959 and 1960. Teeth, skull parts and hand bones representing three individuals were found in Bed I, and more material followed from Bed I and lower Bed II. By 1964, L.S.B. Leakey, P.V. Tobias, and J.R. Napier were ready to name Homo habilis. But almost as soon as they had, there was confusion over the hypodigm of the new species. Tobias himself suggested that OH 13 resembles Homo erectus from Java, and he noted that OH 16 has teeth as large as those of Australopithecus. By the early 1970s, however, Tobias had put these thoughts behind him and returned to the opinion that all of the Olduvai remains are Homo habilis. At about this time, important discoveries began to flow from the Koobi Fora region in Kenya. To most observers, crania such as KNM-ER 1470 confirmed the presence of Homo in East Africa at an early date. Some of the other specimens were problematical. A.C. Walker and R.E. Leakey raised the possibility that larger skulls including KNM-ER 1470 differ significantly from smaller-brained, small-toothed individuals such as KNM-ER 1813. Other workers emphasized that there are differences of shape as well as size among the hominids from Koobi Fora. There is now substantial support for the view that in the Turkana and perhaps also in the Olduvai assemblages, there is more variation than would be expected among male and female conspecifics. One way to approach this question of sorting would be to compare all of the new fossils against the original material from Olduvai which was used to characterize Homo habilis in 1964. A problem is that the Olduvai remains are fragmentary, and none of them provides much information about vault form or facial structure. An alternative is to work first with the better crania, even if these are from other sites. I have elected to treat KNM-ER 1470 and KNM-ER 1813 as key individuals. Comparisons are based on discrete anatomy and measurements. Metric results are displayed with ratio diagrams, by which similarity in proportions for several skulls can be assessed in respect to a single specimen selected as a standard. Crania from Olduvai examined in this way are generally smaller than KNM-ER 1470, although OH 7 has a relatively long parietal. In the Koobi Fora assemblage, there is variation in brow thickness, frontal flattening and parietal shape relative to KNM-ER 1470.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS)

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