Siberian Cave Yields Oldest Fossils Belonging to Enigmatic Human Species

The entrance to Denisova Cave in Sibera.

The entrance to Denisova Cave in Sibera.
Image: IAET, Siberian Branch Russian Academy of Sciences

The Denisovans, a mysterious group of extinct hominins closely related to Neanderthals, didn’t leave much fossil evidence behind. A fresh dig at their former stomping grounds in Siberia has now yielded three new fossils—the oldest yet found of this species.

Katerina Douka, an evolutionary anthropologist from the University of Vienna, and her colleagues found the fossils in Denisova Cave, a natural shelter located in the Altai Mountains of southern Siberia. The scientists were studying the oldest layers in the cave, which up until now had failed to produce a single human fossil. A total of five human fossil fragments were recovered: three belonging to Denisovans, one from a Neanderthal,…

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