In DepthArchaeology

Denisovan DNA found in cave on Tibetan Plateau

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Science  30 Oct 2020:
Vol. 370, Issue 6516, pp. 512-513
DOI: 10.1126/science.370.6516.512

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Summary

For today's Buddhist monks, Baishiya Karst Cave, 3200 meters high on the Tibetan Plateau, is holy. For the ancient Denisovans, extinct hominins known only from DNA, teeth, and bits of bone found in another cave 2800 kilometers away in Siberia, it was a favorite rest stop. Last year, researchers proposed that a jawbone found long ago in the Tibetan cave was Denisovan, based on its ancient proteins. But archaeologist Dongju Zhang of Lanzhou University and her team were on a quest for more definitive evidence. So in December, 2018, they began to dig. This week, Zhang's team reports the first Denisovan ancient DNA found outside Denisova Cave: mitochondrial DNA gleaned not from fossils, but from the cave sediments themselves. Precise dates show the Denisovans took shelter in the cave 100,000 years and 60,000 years ago, and possibly as recently as 45,000 years ago when modern humans were flowing into Asia.

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