a team of An international team of researchers, involving scientists from Europe, the United States and Australia, discovered a fossil molar tooth from Denisovans in Laos, Asia. The research estimates that the fossil, belonging to a child, is between 164,000 and 131,000 years old.
The find was found during an archaeological survey in the region, carried out in 2018. The Danisovans were aextinct species considered ‘relative’ to modern humans.
A study detailing the findings was published in the journal Nature Communications.
An analysis showed that the tooth originated from the same ancient human population first recognized in Denisova Cave in the Altai Mountains of Siberia, Russia.
Tam Ngu Hao 2 Cave, also known as Cobra Cave, is located near Tam Pà Ling Cave, where another important 70,000-year-old human fossil (Homo sapiens) had previously been found.
According to the researchers, the two ancient sites are linked to Denisovan occupations, despite being thousands of kilometers apart.
First Denisovan fossil in Southeast Asia
In a statement, the study’s lead author and assistant professor of paleoanthropology at the University of Copenhagen, Fabrice Demeter, said this fossil represents the first discovery of Denisovans in Southeast Asia.
“[O achado] shows that the Denisovans were south at least as far as Laos. This is in line with genetic evidence found in modern Southeast Asian populations.”
Demeter further said that the cave’s sediments contained teeth of giant herbivores, ancient elephants and rhinos that lived in forest environments.
“After all this work following the many clues written in fossils from very different geographic areas, our findings are significant,” says the professor.
Scientists made an assessment of the shape of the tooth and found similarities with Denisovan teeth found on the Tibetan Plateau (East Asia) – the only other place where Denisovan fossils have ever been found.
According to Mike Morley, a professor at the Microarchaeology Laboratory at Flinders University in Australia, the Cobra cave site was found high in limestone mountains containing the remains of an ancient cemented cave sediment filled with fossils.
For Kira Westaway, a professor at Macquarie University, establishing a sedimentary context for the fossils’ final resting place provides an internal check on the integrity of the find.
“If the sediments and fossils return a similar age, as seen in Tam Ngu Hao 2, we will know that the fossils were buried not long after the organism died,” the professor said.
According to the researchers, the wet conditions in Laos meant that the DNA ancient has not been preserved.
Archaeologists have found ancient proteins suggesting the fossil was a juvenile, belonging to a child likely female and likely aged between three and a half and eight and a half years.
For science, fossil remains are directly important as a way of understanding the succession of events and species in a region.
The scientists wrote that “the good agreement of the different dating techniques, both of sediments and fossils, attests to the quality of the chronology of the species in the region. And that has a lot of implications for population mobility across the landscape.”
The team believes the fossils were likely scattered across the landscape when they were taken to the cave during a flood event that deposited sediment and remains.
For future work, experts say Southeast Asian caves could provide the next clue and more concrete evidence for understanding these complex demographic relationships.
Source: CNN Brasil