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New dates narrow down when the Denis and Neanderthals crossed the track



The mysterious ancient hominids known as Denisovci and their evangelical relatives, the Neanderthals, visited the southern Siberian cave, starting surprisingly long ago, revealing two new studies.

Evidence of visits to these populations in the Denis Cave, beginning about 200,000 years ago for Neanderthals and probably 300,000 years ago for Denisovance, appears on January 31 Nature.

It is known that members of the two deceased hominid species occupied a siberian cave in several points during the Stone Age. But new evidence provides the best look to date when Denis and Neanderthals came to that place and how two types of hominids could interact, including crossing.

In a new study, the team led by geo-archeologist Zenobie Jacobs discovered that the Denisovanci occupied the Siberian cave almost 55,000 years ago, while the second investigation, led by archaeologist Katerina Douka, placed Denisovani in a rough place. As for the Neanderthals, they have last settled the Denis Cave almost 97,000 years ago, the Jacobs Group estimates.

"It seems that Denisovani can be put in place about 300,000 years ago, about 50,000 years ago, with Neanderthals in the period between," says paleoanthropologist Chris Stringer of the London Natural History Museum who did not participate in the research. But it is still not certain whether the fossils of the hominids from the cave come from individuals who have died during casual occupations or whose remains have been transported to the construction site, say, meat lovers, he says.

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The suggestion of other researchers that the Denisovani survived in southern Siberia before maybe 30,000 years could not be confirmed in the new studies.

Jacobs from Wollongong University in Australia and her colleagues have created dates for 103 samples from the Denis Cave sediment that gave stone tools and hominid fossils. Estimates of age were based on calculations when sediment was last exposed to sunlight. The oldest denisian fossil, the molar tooth, came from a sediment dating back roughly 300,000 years ago. But this fossil may originally be deposited in a sediment above the site where it was finally found, which made the tooth much younger than 300,000 years ago, says Jacobs' team.

Max Planck's Douglas Institute for Humanities History in Yen, Germany, and his colleagues estimated the age of four Denisovc, three Neanderthals, and three other hominids whose fragmentary remains were found in the Denis Cave. The team embedded new and previously obtained estimates of age for fossils and sediments, information on the original fossil positions when excavated and comparing mitochondrial DNA extracted from the fossil.

Until now, the age of neanderthal fossils in Northeast Asia was scarce and pointed to the relatively late presence of the stone age. – We did not expect [Denisova Cave] Neanderthals to date about 120,000 years ago, but the sediment containing Neanderthal DNA is 200,000 years old, "Douka says. These genetic evidence suppress the estimates when the Neanderthals first came to the Siberian cave on the basis of fossils only. Relatively warm temperatures obviously encouraged the Neanderthals to go north to Denis Cave, researchers say.

Scientists knew that the arrival of neanderthals in the cave led to crossing with the Denisovci. In August 2018, scientists reported that the girl introduced by DNA removed from the fragment of bone excavated in the Siberian cave had father Denisovana and mother of Neanderthals, the only hybrid of the first generation of its kind ever found (SN: 9/15/18, p. 9).

The Doukin team calculates that the hybrid girl lived 79,300 and 118,100 years ago, prior to the previous assessment and aligned with the years of other cavernous neanderthal fossils. Estimates of dating are not sufficiently precise to determine if Denisovanci and Neandertals occupied the cave at the same time. But the girl's family must live near the cave, if not in it, while the Denisans were there, she doubted Douka.

Her team also estimates that animal dental attachments and bone points were previously found in Denis's cave 43,000 to 49,000 years ago. Although such items are traditionally associated with the Stone Age Homo sapiens, Russian archaeologists in the Doukin team consider Denisovans as probable creators of these findings. The Denis Cave investigation, which started 40 years ago, did not give H. sapiens fossils or DNA.

H. sapiens lived somewhere else in Siberia some 45,000 years ago (SN: 11/29/14, p. 8). Since the Denisans did not come 52,000 years ago in new research, "my money would be in early modern humans" as the creators of the Denis Cave pincers and points, says Stringer.

But it would not be surprising if the descendants were Denisovani H. sapiens and artifacts, writes archeologist Robin Dennell of the University of Sheffield in England in a comment published in the same issue Nature, Cross over H. sapiensNeanderthals and Denisovans could be more common than scientists understand. In addition to the previous evidence of the crossing between Neanderthals and Denisovans in the cave, Neanderthals and H. sapiens they are known to have crossed elsewhere in Eurasia.


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