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Major discovery of Denisovan bones and artifacts found

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  • Major discovery of Denisovan bones and artifacts found

    The remains from Denisovans are exceptionally scarce, but now we have nearly 3800 bone fragments that might belong to them. And at 200,000 years old they are also older than any of the others found.

    Four bones, teeth and fingerbones, retained enough DNA to test. Three came from Denisovans, with two coming from either the same person or a close relative, whereas the fourth was from a Neanderthal. This Neanderthal appears to have occupied the cave at a later point, some 130,000 to 150,000 years ago.

    The remains were found in what is called "Denisovan Cave," located in the Bashelaksky Range of the Altai mountains of Siberia, and where the remains of modern humans, Denisovans and Neanderthal have been found earlier, but this appears to be largely from a chamber previously unexcavated and represents some of the oldest layers.

    As one of the researchers, Katerina Douka, an archaeological scientist at the University of Vienna explained, "We specifically targeted these layers where no other human fossils were found before, and our strategy worked."

    Further, we are also now able to examine the stone tools that they used for the first time. Most were scraping tools likely used to scrape animal skins for clothing and don't appear to have any direct counterparts in north or central Asia, but do bear some resemblance to items found in Israel which date between 250,000 and 400,000 years old. Previously, Denisovan fossils had only been found in levels either devoid of such items, or in layers that likely held Neanderthal material making identification impossible.

    Source: Scientists find 200,000-year-old remains of one of modern humanity’s ‘most recent ancestors’

    Our relatives were found, just in time for the holidays.

    The 200,000-year-old remains of a close kin to modern humans have been discovered in a cave in Siberia, Russia, according to a new study published last Thursday in the Nature, Ecology & Evolution journal.

    The Denisovans -- "a sister population to the Neanderthals" -- were identified just 10 years ago and very few physical remains have been found since, according to the abstract.

    The study points to the identification of five hominin bones that were found, including four that had enough DNA for mitochondrial analysis. Three of those bones were identified as Denisovan and the fourth as a Neanderthal, according to the study’s abstract.

    The Denisovan remains were found near the base of Denisova Cave and, thanks to the “wealth of archaeological material” — including stone tools and artifacts, a landmark find among Denisovan remains — discovered there. This paints a picture of “the material culture associated with these early hominins.” The finds also help to give scientists an idea of the relationships between Denisovans and Neanderthals.

    "This is the first time we have the physical remains of Denisovans that we can securely date to 200,000 years ago," study co-author Samantha Brown, a researcher at the University of Tübingen in Germany, told USA Today. "From here we can investigate their technology and behaviors and hopefully start to understand this population a little better."

    Scientists found nearly 3,800 bone fragments in their efforts, which began in 2017 with funding from the European Research Council and the Russian Academy of Sciences.

    Just one set of remains had been found beforehand, in China, and was estimated to be between 122,000 and 194,000 years old.

    "Denisovans are one of our most recent ancestors, and many people today still carry a small percentage of Denisovan DNA," Brown told USA Today, noting though that there is still "very little information" about the group.


    © Copyright Original Source

    The entire paper, The earliest Denisovans and their cultural adaptation is available online by clicking the hyperlink. Here is the abstract from the paper:


    Since the initial identification of the Denisovans a decade ago, only a handful of their physical remains have been discovered. Here we analysed ~3,800 non-diagnostic bone fragments using collagen peptide mass fingerprinting to locate new hominin remains from Denisova Cave (Siberia, Russia). We identified five new hominin bones, four of which contained sufficient DNA for mitochondrial analysis. Three carry mitochondrial DNA of the Denisovan type and one was found to carry mtDNA of the Neanderthal type. The former come from the same archaeological layer near the base of the cave’s sequence and are the oldest securely dated evidence of Denisovans at 200 ka (thousand years ago) (205–192 ka at 68.2% or 217–187 ka at 95% probability). The stratigraphic context in which they were located contains a wealth of archaeological material in the form of lithics and faunal remains, allowing us to determine the material culture associated with these early hominins and explore their behavioural and environmental adaptations. The combination of bone collagen fingerprinting and genetic analyses has so far more-than-doubled the number of hominin bones at Denisova Cave and has expanded our understanding of Denisovan and Neanderthal interactions, as well as their archaeological signatures.

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  • #2
    Thanks for the reference!
    Glendower: I can call spirits from the vasty deep.
    Hotspur: Why, so can I, or so can any man;
    But will they come when you do call for them? Shakespeare’s Henry IV, Part 1, Act III:

    go with the flow the river knows . . .


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