Tag Archives: hominid evolution

Art of Science: Klaus Enrique’s Dmanisi Skull

Klaus Enrique, Dmanisi Skull, 2014

Klaus Enrique, Dmanisi Skull, 2014

Artist Klaus Enrique uses a wild array of materials to create his sculptures, many of which are inspired by the work of 16th century painter Giuseppe Arcimboldo. He’s made a Mona Lisa out of fruit, a Princess Diana out of flower petals, and even a super-creepy Darth Vader out of dead insects. But for you, my geeky friends, I’ve chosen this very special piece – The Dmanisi Skull, a recreation of one of the most significant archaeological finds of the 21st century – made from small, hairless rodent corpses.

The real Dmanisi skull is a 1.8-million-year-old intact skull excavated from the town of Dmanisi in the Republic of Georgia in 2005.  Scientists studied the skull and several others found nearby for several years before publishing a paper in Science in 2013 that posited that several early hominid species were, in fact, all one species – Homo erectus.

It’s no surprise that a huge discovery that rewrote a chapter of human evolution would inspire a work of art. But why the hairless mice? Could they be a nod to our even older ancestors, the shrewlike insectivores from which all mammals evolved? Or was Enrique playing on the tradition of the Memento Mori by making old, dry bones out of flesh?

Because of the highly perishable nature of his materials, Enrique doesn’t display his sculptures, but rather photographs them and exhibits the photos. You can see many more of his works on his website. For some fascinating insights into the Dmanisi discoveries, I recommend this post by anthropologist John Hawks, who once held the real skull in his hands.

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