The “Teenager” From Dmanisi

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Look at her profile, her full-face expression, her posture and try to select a name for her. But be mindful that the world scientific community and the tourism industry will associate the selected name with Georgia and with one specific spot – Dmanisi – for a long time to come. So proceed carefully with this very important task: Choose a name that best fits her, or vote on the Facebook page of the Georgian National Museum for the name you think most advantageous.

It is three months now since the Georgian National Museum announced its competition to name the offspring of Mzia and Zezva. The only selection requirements set by the Museum were that the name should be easy to pronounce and that it should necessarily be an old and genuine Georgian name.

Both the Facebook page and the email of the Georgian National Museum (info@museum.ge) have been inundated with a wide variety of options: Mzisa, Lamzira, Zemzisa, Zizila, Mziskhivi, Gurandukhti, Tsiala, Nana, Nini, Lela, Lali, Natela, Zoia, Zaira and many others. Behind the scenes, even the name Ia was suggested – for being simple and old. Some sort of conceptual suggestion, with a trace of acid humor, was also made - Zhuzhuna, a name commonly used to stereotype a Georgian woman.

To make a long story short, the competition was entering its final and decisive stage at the time this article was written. And, in the first days of 2011, the Dmanisi Girl (as she is already known in scientific circles) will, probably, have her very own appropriately Georgian name.

For now, though, let’s run through her very old biography, which, given its format, rivals and even overshadows that of pop-stars.

She was born some 1.8 million years ago and together with her parents arrived in Georgia from Africa as the first-wave immigrants. They settled in the south Caucasus, in Dmanisi, which they found rich with flora and fauna for food and hunting and blessed with a warm climate and tasty water.She is around thirteen or fourteen years old. Her soaring career, however, did not take off until 2010. That was when a small spade of an archeologist knocked against her scull. Since then, “the Dmanisi Girl,” the Dmanisi locality, and her family of Homo Georgicus (Mzia and Zezva), have become the focus of world attention, and she has been acclaimed as the “first European teenager.”

The image of the Dmanisi Girl was reconstructed in the well-known Atelier Daynes studio in Paris, which specializes in “hyper-realistic reconstruction, using paleoanthropology and cast of the skull techniques.” Her image-maker was the famous paleoartist Elisabeth Daynes who also put a fresh face on her parents - Mzia and Zezva. The reconstruction of the Dmanisi Girl was unveiled at the Dmanisi Hominid Archaeological Site last summer with quite a reception in her honor. Elisabeth Daynes herself flew in from Paris especially for the event. Per Eklund, the then Ambassador of the European Union to Georgia, was there too, along with other representatives of the diplomatic corps.

Distinguished publications such as National Geographic, Science and Nature have all published articles on the Georgian teenager. Renowned galleries and museum such as White Cube in London and Musée de l’Homme in Paris have opened their halls to her. A copy of her moulage, along with those of her parents, is now displayed at the newly opened Museum of Human Evolution in Burgos, Spain, in the rarefied company of some of the other oldest-known fossil hominids – Abel, Ardi, legendary Lucy and Toumaï.

The Dmanisi Girl even has her own space on Facebook, perhaps not surprising for a Twenty-First Century teenager - even the oldest one on record. Debates about her name and origin never abate on the social network.

“Thus it proves that anthropologically we are Europeans,” one friend writes on the Facebook wall of the Georgian National Museum.

Not to worry; this is definitely not the rant of a Nazi-anthropological ideologue. Nor will the discovery of this famous family of Homo Georgicus likely change our mind-set to a more European-type, let alone fling the door of the European Union open wide – all that depends much more on us and even more on world political factors. But this Dmanisi teenager and her heralded arrival on the world stage can definitely benefit our country. Expressions such as “First Europeans,” “Dmanisi – the cradle of Europe,” “Homeland of first Europeans” and the like are already established in world scientific circles, distinctly attributing the southern Caucasus to Europe.

Several years ago, National Geographic magazine devoted considerable space to the story of Mzia and Zezva, cementing their image as a “loving couple.” The Dmanisi Girl also has an interesting story, but she needs image promotion and, first and foremost, an interesting Georgian name.

The Web edition of National Geographic credits Georgian photographer Guram Tsibakhashvili for his photographs of the skull of the Dmanisi Girl when she was discovered at the archeological site. In Georgia, Guram Tsibakhashvili is also widely credited as the best photographer of the female form and, in general, one who has a keen eye for discovering cover girls. In his field notes published on the National Geographic Website, Guram writes:

“In the Georgian language, the word for ‘skull’ – qalebi – and the plural word for ‘woman’ sound identical. During this assignment [in Dmanisi], when people asked me ‘What do you do? I answered with ‘I take pictures of qalebi.’
“Then they would ask, ‘Are they nice?’
“And I would reply, ‘Yes, but they’re not young. They’re approximately 1.8 million years old.’”

Creativity and the rules of the game of show business are elements which need to be taken into account in choosing a proper name for the Dmanisi teenager. Her fans are anxious to see how she will be christened. The final result will be provided on the Tabula Webpage (www.tabula.ge).  

არჩევნები 2018

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