Scientists who used sophisticated techniques to determine the age of bone fragments, teeth and artifacts unearthed in an Siberian cave, provided a new insight into the mysterious extinct human species that may have been more advanced than previously known.
The research, published on Wednesday, shed light on the species called Denisovans, known only from the sharp remains of the Denisova Cave at the foot of the Altai Mountains in Russia.
While they are still existent, they have left a genetic mark on our species Homo sapiens, especially among indigenous populations in Papua New Guinea and Australia, which retain a small but significant percentage of Denis' DNA, evidence of past intersection between species.
Fossils and DNA traces Denisovani were present in the cave from at least 200,000 to 50,000 years ago, and Neanderthals, closely related extinct human species, were present there between 200,000 and 80,000 years ago, according to a new study. Stone tools have shown that one or both species can occupy the cave as early as 300,000 years.
Scientists last year described the fragmentation of bones from Denisova cave to a girl whose mother was Neanderthal and Denisovan's father, a proof of intersection. The girl, called "Danny", lived about 100,000 years ago, a new study showed.
Keychains made of animal teeth and bones from the cave were determined to be between 43,000 and 49,000 years. Perhaps they were made by Denisovany, which indicates a degree of intellectual sophistication.
"Traditionally, these objects are connected in Western Europe by expanding our species and are considered to be a sign of the behavior pattern, but in this case the Denizens may be their authors," says archaeologist Katerina Duka of the Max Planck Institute of Science History of Humanity in Germany.
Our species appeared in Africa for about 300,000 years, and later spread 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 one finger bone.
"The new fossils will be especially welcome, because we almost do not know anything about the physical appearance of the Denisans, aside from them with fairly artificial teeth," said geologist Zenobia Jacobs of the University of Wollongong in Australia.
"Their DNA in modern Australian Aboriginal people and the people of New Guinea remarkably suggests that they may have been quite prevalent in Asia, and possibly even in Southeast Asia, but we need to find some solid evidence of their presence in these regions to extract the whole a story about Denisovans, "Geochronology at the University of Wollongong Richard" Bert "Roberts added.
The research was published in the journal Nature.