Searching for the Denisovans


In 2010, a finger bone discovered in Siberia was assigned using DNA to a previously unknown human group, the Denisovans. The Denisovans interbred with both Asian Neanderthals and modern humans over the past 100,000 years; their geographic distribution is now thought to have stretched from the Siberian steppes to the tropical forests of SE Asia and Oceania. Despite their broad spatio-temporal range, the Denisovans are only known from 4 bones, all from a single cave. This patchy knowledge of an entire human population significantly limits our ability to test hypotheses regarding routes and timing of people movements across Asia, the nature and frequency of interaction between archaic indigenous groups and migratory modern humans, and the mechanisms leading to sole dominance of our species.

In 2017, a new 5-year research project "FINDER", funded by the European Research Council, was inaugurated, its main purpose being the discovery of new Denisovans. We apply a novel combination of analytical methods, namely collagen fingerprinting, also known as ZooMS, radiocarbon dating and ancient DNA analysis, designed to identify, date and genetically characterize human fossils amongst thousand animal fragments excavated from Denisova and elsewhere in Siberia. The first results from this work are reviewed in this presentation.

Cite this Record

Searching for the Denisovans. Katerina Douka, Samantha Brown, Mikhael Shunkov, Anatoly Derevianko, Tom Higham. Presented at The 82nd Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Washington, DC. 2018 ( tDAR id: 443081)

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Spatial Coverage

min long: 34.805; min lat: 39.096 ; max long: -169.102; max lat: 77.157 ;

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 22547