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Scientists have found the oldest DNA evidence yet of humans’ biological history. But instead of neatly clarifying human evolution, the finding is adding new mysteries.
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In a paper in the journal Nature, scientists reported Wednesday that they had retrieved ancient human DNA from a fossil dating back about 400,000 years, shattering the previous record of 100,000 years.
The fossil, a thigh bone found in Spain, had previously seemed to many experts to belong to a forerunner of Neanderthals. But its DNA tells a very different story. It most closely resembles DNA from an enigmatic lineage of humans known as Denisovans. Until now, Denisovans were known only from DNA retrieved from 80,000-year-old remains in Siberia, 4,000 miles east of where the new DNA was found.
“Our expectation was that it would be a very early Neanderthal,” Dr. Meyer said.
But the DNA did not match that of Neanderthals. Dr. Meyer then compared it to the DNA of the Denisovans, the ancient human lineage that he and his colleagues had discovered in Siberia in 2010. He was shocked to find that it was similar.
“Everybody had a hard time believing it at first,” Dr. Meyer said. “So we generated more and more data to nail it down.”
The extra research confirmed that the DNA belonged on the Denisovan branch of the human family tree.
You gotta be the second or third I saw try to bring this to conversation.
I think the majority here accept that folks have been around longer than speculated by science...
I personally believe we have as a species in one form or another must have been around from the start of course..and I feel that we had culture almost as long...