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Pleistocene sediment DNA from Denisova Cave

Sediment DNA tracks 300,000 years of hominin and animal presence at Denisova Cave

Max Planck researchers have analyzed DNA from 728 sediment samples from Denisova Cave. This is the largest study of DNA preserved in sediments to date. It provides unprecedented detail about the occupation of the site by both archaic and modern humans over 300,000 years. The researchers detected the DNA of Neandertals and Denisovans, the two forms of archaic hominins who inhabited the cave. They were also the first to detect DNA of modern humans at the site who appeared around the time of the emergence of an archaeological culture called the Initial Upper Palaeolithic around 45,000 years ago. The study also documents the history of many mammals, including bears and hyaenas that lived in the area through cold and warm periods.

© Richard G. Roberts