Altai Mountains, SW Siberia, Russia
The First Fossil Evidence of the Denisovans
Several posts have been made on this blog regarding the Denisovans and what I want to do in this post is to begin to make some possible connections between the Denisovans and other hominids along with considering some possibilities. Denisova Cave is located in the Altai Mountains in Southwestern Siberia, Russia and this was the site where the first evidence of the Denisovans was discovered in 2010. This cave was originally investigated in the 1970’s by a Russian anthropologist by the name of Nikolai Ovodov looking for fossil remains of canids (dogs, wolves, jackals, dingoes, etc.). In 2008 the cave was once again investigated by the Russian Academy of Sciences. That exploration was led by Michael Shunkov and also involved other Russian scientists. It was this 2008 investigative team that found the first evidence of the Denisovans which consisted of a finger bone believed to be from a juvenile hominin that came to be known as the “X woman.” Associated artifacts found in the cave included a bracelet found at the same level as the finger bone which was dated at around 40 kyr (thousand years old) using radiocarbon dating and oxygen isotope dating. Since 2008 other investigations in the cave have established that hominins occupied the cave at various times as far back as 125 kya (thousand years ago) and possibly longer. Continue Reading
This post was originally posted on the San Pedro Institute site in November 2014 and is being reposted here.
By Dr. Rob L., San Pedro Institute
The origins of modern Europeans remains a matter of debate and speculation but this past week (Nov 2014) a scientific team published some new DNA findings that may shed light on European origins. Their findings were published in the noted journal Science.
Kostenki Man 30,000 year old skull reconstruction found in Western Russia
The team successfully sequenced DNA from Kostenki Man found in Western Russia and it was revealed that he lived between 38,700–36,200 years ago. This is one of the oldest fossils of anatomically modern humans from Europe ever found. The fossil is known as K14 and it was noted that he shares a close ancestry with the 24,000 year old Mal’ta Boy from central Siberia, European Mesolithic hunter-gatherers, some modern western Siberians, and many modern Europeans but not east Asians. Further, the fossil genome shows evidence of shared ancestry with all Eurasians including later Neolithic farmers.
From the genome sequencing the team has also concluded that Western Eurasians and Eastern Asians diverged from each other more than 36, 200 years ago and that the genomic structure of modern Europeans dates back to the Upper Paleolithic and derives from a meta-population that sometimes stretched from Europe to Central Asia. Continue Reading
This post was formerly entitled: “The Pericues: Proof of Homo erectus in Baja”—–
The Pericues also known as the Pericu, Cora, and Edues were the aboriginal inhabitants of the Cape Region which is the southernmost end of Baja California Sur, Mexico. Sine the late 18th century, sadly, they have been culturally and linguistically extinct.
Baja California Native American Tribes
Of special interest here is that these people had very distinctive hyperdolichocephic skulls. That is, they were known for their distinctive long headed skulls. Some researchers believe that the Pericu were either were trans-Pacific migrants or remnants of some of the oldest colonizers of the New World. Their burials feature remains painted with red ochre (Las Palmas burial complex) which sometimes were deposited in caves or under rock shelters. These people used the atlatl and darts along with the bow and arrow up through the 17th century. When the Spanish came to the Americas they enslaved the Pericu until they revolted in 1734. The revolt lasted for two years until the Spanish reasserted authority over them. Many of the Pericu died of diseases brought by the Spanish as well. Continue Reading
Did ancient Polynesians and Australian Aboriginals get to South America? Did they interbreed with some South American people? Did Native Americans not only arrive in the Americans via the Bering Land Bridge but also by sea? These are some of the questions that science is attempting to answer and the evidence that is being found is somewhat astonishing…..at least to some.
I have long studied the Olmec which I consider to be a fantastic ancient people. They were the first MAJOR civilization in Mexico and Guatemala following a progressive development Soconusco (a region in the SW corner of Chiapas, Mexico) and what is today the modern SW Pacific lowlands of Guatemala. These people lived in the tropical lowlands of south-central Mexico in what is today the Mexican states of Veracruz and Tabasco. There is speculation they came from the Mokaya or Mixe-Zoque people which some consider pre-Olmec people. But, note this is speculation.
The Olmec are best known for their carvings of colossal heads and other artworks. These people have broad noses, large lips, and some had large eyes. Some of their artwork depictions of themselves clearly look African or Polynesian and one must wonder if these people actually came from Africa or Polynesia! Yet, other artwork depictions look more Oriental such as that depicted in the artistic statue known as “The Wrestler.” Continue Reading
Maka woman in Pacific Northwest from 1900
In a recent post to his webpage Linguist Robert Lindsay makes two important observations (among others). In the final paragraph he notes how the Mozabite people in Algeria are Caucasoid but they are “some of the weirdest-looking Caucasoids I have ever seen. They don’t really look like any other race of humans..” He notes some look like people from India. He also notes that in papers about the genesis of the Caucasian race North Africa, the Middle East, and India are mentioned (frequently) as hubs for the development of this race 30-40 kya. He further notes that the Mozabite people are mentioned over and over when remains of ancient genetic groups are discussed along with the Uighur “for some odd reason.” I think this is because some researchers consider the Mozabites and Uighur to be some of the most ancient people on the planet.
This is subject matter for a future post I think but for now I want to focus on something else Lindsay said in this post. He notes, “There are also links between Orcadians (Scottish Islanders) and Siberians.” This is true and has been acknowledged by some researchers. Then Lindsay goes on to say this:
“Skulls from Europe from 21,000 YBP (years before present) look more like Amerindians than anything else. The closest match-up between those ancient European skulls is the Makah Amerindian tribe from Europe.”
Now the Makah are actually a Native American tribe currently dwelling in Washington State in the Pacific Northwest of the US. They are a federally recognized tribe. These people have hunted whales and seals for generations. So I’m not sure what Lindsay means by saying the Makah “tribe from Europe” because most anthropologist believe these people came via the Beringia Landbridge into North America and never were in Europe. However, skulls of SOME Europe from around 21 kya DO in fact resemble Amerindian skulls!
In 2007 there was a find and DNA analysis that undercut recent theories about Paleoamericans (the first people in the New World) having originally come from SE Asia or even Europe. That find was the “Cave Maiden.” These remains were of a teenage girl found in a Mexican cave who lived about 12 kya. The cave is the Outland Cave in the Yucatan. Her bones are believed to be one of the oldest and most complete skeletons ever found in the Americas. DNA analysis showed her ancestry was from a now vanished land between Siberia and Alaska. Continue Reading
That’s what some researchers are hoping for as now two partial skulls from eastern China have emerged as prime candidates that may finally reveal what the Denisovans looked like.
A Chinese-US research team authored a paper appearing in “Science” showing 105-125 kyr fossils they call “archaic Homo” remains. They suggest these bones may be a new type of ancient human or an eastern variant of Neanderthals. The team seems to avoid suggesting the remains might be Denisovan, however.
Denisova Cave, Altai Mtns, Siberia
The new skulls seem to fit what we would expect to see in Denisovan skulls which is basically Neanderthals with an Asian flavor. No DNA has yet been extracted from these skulls. The skulls were found along with quartz stone tools by Dr Zhan Yang Li about 4000 kilometers from the famous Denisova Cave in Siberia in 2007. What he actually found was a yellowish rounded skull cap. The team returned later and found an additional 45 fossils that fit together into a partial crania. The skulls have no faces and no jaws but there is enough there to note a close resemblance to Neanderthal remains.
One of the cranium has a huge brain volume of 1800 cc which itself is rather astounding! That volume would put this skull on the higher end of modern human and Neanderthal skull volumes. There is also a Neanderthal-like hollow in a bone on the back of the skull and prominent brow ridges along with inner ear bones also found. All of these resemble what we find in Neanderthal remains.
These remains differ from European Neanderthal remains, however, and from those found in the Levant. For one they have thinner brow ridges and the skull bones are less robust which are similar to EARLY MODERN HUMANS and some other Asian remains! Thus they are not Neanderthal in the typical sense. Continue Reading
Artistic depiction of the 5 Dmanisi skulls
The majority consensus is that our ancient human ancestors came out of Africa and populated the world. And the consensus is also that human evolution took place in Africa as these newly evolved humans migrated out of Africa they replaced more archaic species along the way. This is the OOA/Replacement Theory. More recently there has been evidence found that, in fact, there were not only migrations out of Africa but also back into Africa. However, there is a growing body of evidence suggesting all of this is NOT the case at all and part of that growing evidence are the finds at the Dmanisi site in Georgia (Russia).
The finds at the Dmanisi site clearly challenge the conventional opinion and the more we find the more it is beginning to appear that Africa was NOT the sole “cradle of humankind.” For, what is being found at the Dmanisi site suggests STRONGLY that there was a “Eurasian chapter in the long evolutionary story of man.”
Location of Dmanisi site in Georgia Republic
The Dmanisi discoveries upset the conventional view that ancient human ancestors migrated out of Africa not so long ago in evolutionary terms. In fact, these discoveries strongly point to ancient human ancestors migrating out of Africa FAR earlier than the conventional view holds. Of course, some of this is being demeaned by the suggestion (speculation) that there was simply a long evolutionary interlude in Eurasia before moving back into Africa to complete our evolution. Frankly, I think that is an absolute CROCK! I think what was going on at Dmanisi was far MORE than simply an “evolutionary interlude.”
The Dmanisi fossilized bones have been dated at around 1.8 myr and they are the oldest remains discovered outside of Africa to date. The Dmanisi remains are far more primitive appearing than Homo erectus which is believed to have been the first hominid species to migrate out of Africa about 1 mya. How is this possible that we have a hominid species outside of Africa long before H. erectus migrated out of Africa and began their conquest of the world?
When we compare the Dmanisi remains to H. erectus remains we come up with some very interesting comparisons. The Dmanisi had brains about 40% SMALLER than the average H. erectus brain! We also find that the Dmanisi were significantly shorter than the average H. erectus. Further, the conventional view has been that when H. erectus came out of Africa they had sophisticated stone tools (Acheulean) and that their physical anatomy was “advanced” in terms of brain size and limb proportions. BUT what is found at Dmanisi is very DIFFERENT from this! Continue Reading