This news comes from the Harvard Medical School. Researchers there have completed the first whole-genome analysis of ancient human DNA from Southeast Asia and their study reveals that there were at least 3 major waves of human migration into the region over the past 50,000 years. Each migration helped shape the genetics of the modern people living in the area today.
The study defines SE Asia as being the area east of India and south of China. The ancient DNA was obtained from 18 ancient skeletal remains who lived between 4.1–1.7 kya in what is today Vietnam, Thailand, Myanmar, & Cambodia.
Results from this study indicate that the first migration took place about 45 kya by people who were hunter-gatherers. Then around 4500 years ago there was a large-scale influx of people from the area of China who brought with them farming. They interbred with the locals already in the region. During the Bronze Age there were more migrations from China into SE Asia. These people brought with them different languages. It’s interesting to note that the same pattern seen in this region echoes that seen in ancient Europe! That pattern is that first came the hunter-gatherers, then the farmers, and then the Bronze Age immigrants. However, there is a major difference because in Europe much of the ancestral diversity has faded due to population interbreeding but in SE Asia the people have retained more variation by far.
Researchers have concluded that the reason for this difference is because farmers arrived in SE Asia much more recently than in Europe around 4500 years ago compared to 8000 years ago in Europe. Thus, populations in SE Asia have not had as long to interbreed as they have in Europe. Continue Reading
Denisova Cave, Altai Mtns, Siberia
An interesting idea was presented to me today which I had not considered until now. It is the idea that the Denisovan who lived in the Altai Mountains at Denisova Cave could have been exiles. That’s an interesting idea to say the least because the modern humans living in the region have no Denisova DNA and you’d think they would since it appears at least some Denisovans lived in the region long ago.
Denisova Cave is located in the Bashelaksky Range of the Altai Mountains, Siberia, Russia. Denisova Cave is a major archaeological site when it comes to the Denisovans because it’s the first place where remains were found that we had no idea existed. The cave also contains evidence of habitation by H. sapiens and Neanderthals. These habitations were concurrent, meaning, at the SAME time!
Map showing location of Altai Mountains
As recent as 2016 a needle made of bone was discovered here dating back 50 kya and it turned out to be the oldest known needle ever found. Sediments inside the cave are rich in animal remains including animals that are now extinct. They include remains from cave lions, cave hyenas, and numerous small mammals. Remains of reptiles have also been found in the cave sediment along with 50 bird species. Continue Reading
As you know one of my favorite human species (or hybrids) are the Red Deer Cave People whose remains are found in two cave sites in China. These prehistoric human ancestors have been described as “highly unusual” due to some of their peculiar features and one of those odd features was their flaring cheek bones (zygomatic arches).
In Caucasian people these arches are extended outward the least while in Asians they are extended outward the most. In Africans the zygomatic arches are somewhere in between Africans and Caucasians. Returning to Asians, their cheek bones are extended outward the most and this is what we see in the Red Deer Cave People fossil remains. However, the extent to which these arches extend outward in the Red Deer Cave People are extended much farther outward than those we see in modern Asians. Also, extended zygomatic arches were also a feature of Homo erectus.
So what was the purpose for the great extension of the cheek bones? Some theorists have speculated that the highly extended cheek bones combined with heavy brow ridges were designed by nature to protect the eyes of the human ancestor especially during combat! The heavy brow ridges also helped shade the eyes from the sun so they may be on to something here. The Red Deer Cave People also had somewhat heavy brow ridges. Continue Reading
Back in January 2016 I posted about one of my favorite ancient human ancestors known as the Red Deer Cave People(aka “Enigma Man”) (see link below). These people lived in China up until about 70 kya and their fossil remains were discovered in 2012 in SW China. Then in December of 2015 it was announced that yet another bone of these people had been found which was described as being “highly unusual.” I’ll return to this a bit later……….
The Red Deer Cave People are somewhat of a mystery. They are believed to have been a pre-modern (pre-Homo sapiens) people and analysis shows they have some remarkable similarities in morphology to archaic H. sapiens DESPITE that they lived between 14-11 kya. 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
I’m going to talk about one of my favorite early human ancestors. The Red Deer Cave People!! These people lived in northern China up until about 70kya. Discovery of these ancient humans happened in 2012 when bones of these people were found in southwestern China. Specifically, jaw and cranial bones were found along with some teeth from two cave sites in SW China. Just last month it was announced that yet another bone from these people was discovered and it was termed as being “highly unusual.”
The Red Deer Cave People continue to be a somewhat mysterious group of ancient humans ancestors. They were a pre-modern people and analysis of their bones and teeth show some remarkable similarities to archaic humans DESPITE the fact that they lived between about 14kya and 11kya. These dates are based on radiocarbon dating of charcoal found with the bones and teeth.
What is odd is that the anatomy of the Red Deer Cave People is unlike what we’ve seen before in modern humans. Thus, we can say these people were unique and a real mystery. Many theories are being thrown around about their origins with some suggesting they could have been a very early modern people who settled in the region of SW China and perhaps northern China sometime around 100kya and who became isolated. Others theorize that they were a late surviving archaic people in much the same way as some isolated Neanderthal populations were.
Other theories postulate that the Red Deer Cave People were possibly hybrids somewhere between modern humans and some as yet unknown archaic species of ancient humans. These theories are based on what are considered to be “unusual traits” of the Red Deer Cave People. Thus far researchers have been unable to determine if these people were hybrids or if they belonged to some known archaic species of ancient human ancestors. Continue Reading