Discovery of 200,000-year-old bones could shed light on recent human ancestors

"Denisovans" were "sister population to the Neanderthals" hundreds of millennia ago.

Updated: December 4, 2021 - 5:12pm

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The discovery of a set of bones roughly 200,000 years old — those of a relatively recent ancestor to modern humans — is helping scientists determine the "archaeological signatures" of the long-vanished archaic human species.

The bones belonging to a member of the Denisovan offshoot of hominins have "expanded our understanding of Denisovan and Neanderthal interactions, as well as their archaeological signatures," an international team of scientists said in a report filed late last month

The discovery represents "the first time we have the physical remains of Denisovans that we can securely date to 200,000 years ago," study coauthor Samantha Brown told USA Today. "From here we can investigate their technology and behaviors and hopefully start to understand this population a little better."

The recovery of the bones has brought with them "a wealth of archaeological material in the form of lithics and faunal remains," the scientists said in the report, "allowing us to determine the material culture associated with these early hominins and explore their behavioural and environmental adaptations."