Finally, a Denisovan specimen from somewhere beyond Denisova Cave

Photo of archaeological excavations in karst cave.

Enlarge / The entrance of
the cave is relatively flat with a gentle slope up to the inside,
where two small trenches were plotted in 2018. (credit: Dongju
Zhang, Lanzhou University)

Denisovans, an extinct group of hominins that once walked
alongside (and
had *** with
) Neanderthals and modern humans, are an enigmatic
branch of our family tree. They left fragments of their DNA behind
in modern human genomes across Asia, Australia, and Melanesia. But
their only physical remains seem have been left in Denisova Cave in
Siberia: just a finger, a few molars, a fragment of arm or leg
bone, and a small chunk of skull.

But we’re starting to piece together a little more of our
mysterious cousins’ story. A team of paleoanthropologists
recently identified a new Denisovan fossil—half of an entire jaw.
And it comes from the high altitude of the Tibetan Plateau in
northern China, nearly 2,000km (1,200 miles) from Denisova
Cave.

An accidental find

Half a lower jaw and a few teeth may not sound like much, but
it’s one of the largest pieces of a Denisovan skeleton that we
know of so far. Its owner died at least 160,000 years ago,
according to uranium-series dating of a thin crust of carbonate on
the fossil, so the Denisovan from Tibet is about the same age as
the oldest Denisovan unearthed so far at Denisova Cave.

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Source: FS – All – Science – News
Finally, a Denisovan specimen from somewhere beyond Denisova Cave