Let me tell you about why this Homo erectus skull’s toothless grin is one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen.
It’s called D3444, the fourth skull found in 2003 at a dig site in Dmanisi, in the Republic of Georgia. At around 1.8 million years old, he’s not only one of the oldest early human remains ever found outside of Africa, but he’s also the earliest known example of a hominid senior citizen. This guy couldn’t chew his food, and they hadn’t invented pudding cups yet so he needed people to help him eat. Judging by the level of wear on his jaw, people did. With support from his community, he made it further into old age than he could have done alone. As far as we know, before this guy Homo erectus didn’t get the chance to grow old and lose all their teeth. It was like with other animals: when you can’t provide for yourself anymore, your time is up.
But something changed with this community in Dmanisi. Maybe old timer here was particularly beloved, or maybe there was a surplus of resources. Maybe one of his offspring took it upon her/himself to look after him. Whatever it was, it represents a major step in human development. It’s the invention of community support.