Cave was lasting home to Denisovans

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Science  18 Sep 2015:
Vol. 349, Issue 6254, pp. 1270-1271
DOI: 10.1126/science.349.6254.1270-b

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Ever since scientists discovered a new kind of human by sequencing DNA from a girl's pinky finger bone found in Denisova Cave in Siberia, they have wondered when the girl lived, and if her people, called Denisovans, lingered in the cave or just passed through. But the elusive Denisovans left almost no fossil record—only that bit of bone and a handful of teeth—and they came from a site that was notoriously difficult to date. Now, state-of-the-art DNA analysis on the Denisovan molars and a series of new dates on cave material show that Denisovans occupied the cave surprisingly early and came back repeatedly. The girl lived at least 50,000 years ago and two other Denisovan individuals died in the cave at least 110,000 and perhaps as early as 170,000 years ago, according to two talks in London last week at the meeting of the European Society for the study of Human Evolution. Although the new dates have wide margins of error, they help solidify our murky view of Denisovans.