Scientists who used sophisticated techniques to determine the age of bone fragments, teeth and artifacts discovered in a Siberian cave provided a new insight into an extinct human species that may have been more advanced than previously known.
A poll published Wednesday clarified the species called Denisovans, known only from remains of the Denisova cave, at the foot of the Altai Mountains in Russia.
Although still enigmatic, they left a genetic imprint on our species, Homo sapiens, particularly among indigenous peoples in Papua New Guinea and Australia who retain a small but significant percentage of Denisovan's DNA, evidence of cross-species species.
Fossils and DNA traces demonstrated that the Denisovans were present in the cave at least 200,000 to 50,000 years ago, and Neanderthals, a closely related extinct human species, were present between 200,000 and 80,000 years ago, the new research finds.
Stone tools indicated that one or both species may have occupied the cave from 300,000 years ago.
Scientists last year described a bone fragment from Denisova Cave of a girl whose mother was Neanderthal and Denisovan's father, evidence of crossbreeding. The girl, nicknamed "Denny," lived about 100,000 years ago, the new research showed.
Pendants made from animal teeth and bone points from the cave were determined between 43,000 and 49,000 years old. They may have been created by Denisovans, suggesting a degree of intellectual sophistication.
"Traditionally these objects are associated in Western Europe with the expansion of our species, and are seen as hallmarks of behavioral modernity, but in this case the Denisovans can be their authors," said archaeological scientist Katerina Douka of the Max Planck Institute for Science of Human History in Germany.
Our species emerged in Africa about 300 thousand years ago, then spreading throughout the world. There is no evidence that Homo sapiens reached the Denisova Cave when these objects were made.
Denisovans are known only from three teeth and a finger bone.
"New fossils would be especially welcome, since we know almost nothing about the physical appearance of Denisovans, apart from having very bulky teeth," said Zenobia Jacobs, geochronologist at the University of Wollongong in Australia.
"Their DNA in the modern Aboriginal and neo-Guinean modern people suggests that they may have been widespread in Asia, and even in Southeast Asia, but we need to find some concrete evidence of their presence in those regions to detail the entire history of the country . " Denisovans, "added Wollongong University geochronologist Richard" Bert "Roberts.
The research was published in the journal Nature.