Denisovans - A new breed of Man who Interbred with Humans An Exciting New Discovery for Archaeology
A New Breed of Human Discovered!
Throughout history, man has been searching for his ancestors and the knowledge of where we came from. Up until the last 100 years, archaeology was a painstaking process, with hardly anybody qualified to understand what they had discovered, or even know what to do with it when they did. There was no DNA mapping, very little knowledge of dating the finds and more importantly, hardly anyone with the know how to even recognise important finds. We have been raised to believe that humans were a single species that evolved from monkeys. In recent years, with our science and technology bounding forward at a great speed, we have been able to see archaeology much more clearly. And more importantly, record and study every find. In the past ten years we have discovered a new breed of human which has been called the Hobbit, or scientifically named, Homo Floresiensis. This discovery caused major excitement. Now there were three. Modern man, Homo Floresiensis and of course the famous Neanderthal found in Germany in the last century. But now there is a fourth. The Denisovan.
The Denisovan was discovered in the Denisova cave in southern Siberia. The Russian led team found a 30,000 year old fossil finger bone of a young girl, and a tooth fragment. When they took the specimens back to the lab for forensic testing, they found, to their astonishment, that the DNA didn't match any known human. It was completely distinct from Human and Neanderthal! Imagine the excitement of this new discovery! We have been aware for some time that we came from a specific bloodline or breed of human, but each and every new discovery makes us more aware of how little we do know. This was another ancient cousin of the human being!
30,000-40,000 year old Young Denisovan girl's Finger bone and tooth
Do the Descendants Live Today?
So it seems that human evolution is not so straight forward as we believed. It is only through recent study that we have discovered the fact that we are interbred with Neanderthals. As we have all seen in the news recently, Ozzy Osbourne is in fact part Neanderthal! And obviously he isn't the only one. Now we have a new DNA in the mix. Denisovans. So what does this mean? Apart from our physiology, there is a possibility that Neanderthals and Denisovans also produced a new breed together. Anthropologist Bence Viola, who works at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig Germany, states that:
'We think the Denisovan population inhabited most of eastern Eurasia, in the same way that Neanderthals inhabited most of western Eurasian. Our idea is that the ancestors of Melanesians met the Denisovans in southeast asia, and interbred. And the ancestors of Melanesians then moved on to Papua New Guinea.
The Cave where the bones were found
Artists first Impression
What this seems to mean is that living islanders today, in parts of Papua New Guinea may be distant descendants of the prehistoric groups! Evidently scientists had collected what is called mitochondrial DNA which comes only from a woman. It is not so easy to track and study as male DNA, as it is a relatively new way to study the female line. So, after further intense studies, they discovered, to their astonishment, that the new DNA was neither modern human or Neanderthal. It is nearer in structure to Neanderthals. They believe that Denisovans split from the parent group of Neanderthals approx 350,000 years ago.
There Be Giants
Archaeologists from the Russian Academy of Sciences, who excavated the site, discovered a rather strange tooth. It is bigger than any modern human tooth. And even stranger, it is also bigger than a Neanderthal tooth! It seems from this deduction, that this new breed were much larger than modern humans and their Neanderthal counterparts!
So is this the giant of myth and legend? Have we at last found real evidence of human like creatures that roamed the earth before and during mans first steps? More importantly, is this where we get our memories of giants roaming the earth, which in fact were even mentioned in the bible?
George Washington University Richmond, airs on the side of caution. They stated that: 'The tooth size isn't always a good indicator of body size. A Hominin can have big teeth and not be a giant'.
Denisova Cave Entrance
It seems that we won't know for at least a while whether it really is a completely separate species, or a branch of modern man. At the moment scientists seem to be leaning towards the separate species idea. Just because the DNA is similar to modern humans, doesn't mean that we did interbreed with them. We shall have to wait and see. Their theory is that if they are a separate species then modern man could not have mated and produced children. But are we certain of that? If the genetics are similar, then surely there is a possibility that we could.
Archaeology and science have a long way to go to figure out exactly how modern man evolved, and who we are related to.
From the depths of time, prehistoric man still holds it's secrets. How many more amazing discoveries will we find?.
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