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9 July 2024
Anthropology, Archaeology, Genetics, Palaeontology

Another link sent in by Gary – https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-024-02194-y … a Buddhist monk, back in 1980, collected some bone samples from a cave in which he had chosen to meditate. The Baishiy Karst cave on the Tibetan plateau is the second site, now, to be definitely associated with Denisovans. After 1980, of course, things changed in Tibet, as it was taken over by the Chinese. Hence, the long gap between then and now. The genetic signature of Denisovans, the contemporaries of Neanderthals, are found in modern human DNA of people living in Asia and Oceania. Eventually, the Chinese excavated the  cave floor. Dirt, or sediment, has been dated between 100,000 and 45,000 years ago. In other words, the period from the last Interglacial episode and the Laschamp Event, which included a reversal of the earth’s magnetic field. In the dirt they found a rib bone which produced DNA indicating the presence of Denisovans. Also discovered in the dirt were thousands of fragmentary animal bones. These were chemically analysed for collagen protein signatures. There was a large variety of animal bones. Wild goat and sheep, for example, or their pre Laschamp equivalent. Wild yak, horses, and gazelles, which they think were on the Denisovan menu. However, the bones included wolves, foxes, rodents, hyenas, and eagles, and presumably other birds may also be included. One European palaeo-anthropologist claimed they had cut marks and suggested all these animals were on the diet of Denisovans. However, the bones of the latter were as fragmentary as the animal bones. He seems to have been adding 2 and 2 and reaching 5. It is quite possible all the bones in the cave have a catastrophic origin – washed into the cave during an upheaval – such as the Laschamp Event. The rib bone was found in a layer dated between 48,000 and 32,000 years ago. The Laschamp Event is generally dated 42,000 years ago. Well within those dating parameters. It is also suggested that interbreeding between Denisovans and modern humans was carried out at this point in time, an interesting conjecture as a post a few  days ago seemed to imply mutations were associated with the Laschamp Event [as a result of an influx of cosmic radiation]. See https://www.sis-group.org.uk/news/2024/07/07/earths-magnetic-field-4/

The excavation at the Tibetan cave is ongoing.

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