torsdag 19. mai 2022

Cave discovery in Laos could unlock more about human evolution's biggest mystery

A tooth unearthed from a remote cave in Laos is helping to sketch an unknown chapter in the human story. Researchers believe the tooth belonged to a young female who lived at least 130,000 years ago and was likely a Denisovan -- an enigmatic group of early humans first identified in 2010. The lower molar is the first fossil evidence placing Denisovans in Southeast Asia and may help untangle a puzzle that had long vexed experts in human evolution.

The only definitive Denisovan fossils have been found in North Asia -- in the eponymous Denisova cave in Siberia's Altai Mountains in Russia. Genetic evidence, however, has tied the archaic humans most closely to places much further south -- in what's now the Philippines, Papua New Guinea and Australia.

"This demonstrates that the Denisovans were likely present also in southern Asia. And it supports the results of geneticists who say that modern humans and the Denisovans might have met in Southeast Asia," said study author Clément Zanolli, a researcher in paleoanthropology at CNRS, the French National Center for Scientific Research and the University of Bordeaux.