The Game-Changing Technique Behind an Amazing New Archaeological Discovery

Archaeologists, Katerina Douka and Tom Higham, paid a visit to Denisova Cave in 2014 —a site high up in Siberia’s Altai Mountains in search of humanity’s past. Ten years earlier, researchers found a pinky bone in that cave. After analyzing the DNA, they realized it represented a previously unknown group of ancient humans, distinct from either Neanderthals or Homo sapiens. That group became known as the Denisovans.

Key Takeaways:

  • Ten years ago, through a pinky bone found in a Denisova cave, it was claimed that a human group exists that is distinct from the Neanderthals and home sapiens.
  • Because analyzing the DNA of these Denisova bones can be expensive and laborious, researchers Douka and Higham invented a new technique.
  • Their technique involves drilling these bones to collect their collagen and passing these through a database of mass spectrometers of animals to identify their group.

“Three Denisovan teeth have been found in the same place since, along with the toe of a Neanderthal. But such recognizable bones are a rarity. When Douka and Higham visited the cave, they realized that the vast majority of bones recovered from it are tiny, unidentifiable slivers.”

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