Scientists have discovered the oldest remains of a close relative of modern humans.
Dated 200,000 years ago, the bones are the oldest known remains of the Denisovans, “a sister population of the Neanderthals,” according to a study published Thursday in the peer-reviewed monthly journal Nature Ecology & Evolution.
“This is the first time that we have the physical remains of Denisovans that we can safely date 200,000 years ago,” Samantha Brown, co-author of the study, said in an email to USA. TODAY. “From there, we can investigate their technology and behavior and hopefully start to understand this population better. “
The Denisovans are a relatively new group in the scientific community, identified only in the last decade. Only six remains of the group have been found in the world. One was discovered in China and five were found in Denisova Cave in Siberia, Russia.
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It was in this Siberian cave that scientists later recovered and analyzed nearly 3,800 bone fragments that would reveal three Denisovan fossils dating back 200,000 years. The efforts, funded by the European Research Council and the Russian Academy of Sciences, began in 2017.
Before this discovery, the oldest remains of Denisovan were estimated to date to be between 122,000 and 194,000 years old.
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There were also other exciting finds in the cave. Scientists have found stone tools and artifacts, the first to be discovered with Denisovan’s remains.
“Denisovans are one of our most recent ancestors, and many people still carry a small percentage of Denisovan DNA today,” said Brown, a researcher at the University of Tübingen in Germany. “It is still difficult to know how similar or different they were to modern humans because we have very little information about them.”