Traces of prehistoric human DNA have been found in caves without bones in an advance that could shed new light on human history and evolution.

While many prehistoric sites in Europe and Asia contain tools and other human-made artefacts, skeletal remains of ancient humans are scarce.

Because of this, the DNA found between cracks of rock could help us better understand how early humans such as Neanderthals and Denisovans evolved

'We know that several components of sediments can bind DNA', said Matthias Meyer of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology.

'We therefore decided to investigate whether hominin DNA may survive in sediments at archaeological sites known to have been occupied by ancient hominins.'

The researchers excavated seven archaeological sites in Belgium, Croatia, France, Russia and Spain.