"Of the five newly identified human bones, four contained enough authentic DNA fragments to allow researchers to reconstruct their mitochondrial genome. Three of these aligned with the Denisovan mtDNA type and one with the Neanderthal type. Dating to 200,000 years ago, the new Denisovan bones are some of the oldest human fossils to have ever been genetically sequenced.

The new findings help bridge a gap regarding the archaeological adaptations of the earliest Denisovans. Denisovans appear at the site during an interglacial (a warm period during which the environment and temperatures were similar to today) and take advantage of the strategic location of the cave. They appear with a fully-fledged lithic tradition, utilizing raw material found in the alluvium of the nearby Anui River and hunting herbivores, such as bison, roe and red deer, gazelle and saiga antelope, and even wooly rhinoceros. They continue to follow similar subsistence patterns for several thousand years. Around 130-150,000 years ago, Neanderthals also appear at the site, represented by one of the fossils also discovered in the current study."


More information: Samantha Brown et al, The earliest Denisovans and their cultural adaptation, Nature Ecology & Evolution (2021). DOI: 10.1038/s41559-021-01581-2
Journal information: Nature Ecology & Evolution