Ancient Human DNA Without Bones Found In Cave Dirt

Posted: Apr 28 2017, 3:38am CDT | by , in News | Latest Science News

Ancient Human DNA Without Bones Found in Cave Dirt
This is an entrance to the archaeological site of Vindija Cave, Croatia. Credit: MPI f. Evolutionary Anthropology/ J. Krause
  • Researchers have developed a new method to retrieve hominin DNA from cave sediments, even in the absence of skeletal remains

Scientists have found ancient human DNA in cave sediments without any traces of bones nearby. This has indeed intrigued the researchers.

Although there are several sites spread throughout Europe and Asia that contain implements and odds and ends of equipment made by ancient human beings, their skeletons have barely survived.

The researchers have therefore looked towards alternative methods of examining human DNA from the past. Sediment dirt found at seven sites has been examined by scientists in a bid to get at the DNA.

Four of these sites had dirt DNA that belonged to Neanderthals. Although no skeletal remains were discovered, the dirt contained DNA belonging to these early form of hominins.

Besides this, Denisovan DNA has also been discovered in a Russian cave. The genetic associations of these various sites have thus been uncovered by the scientists. Via a serious look into the genetic makeup of Neanderthals and Denisovans, the researchers hope to elucidate our own evolution through the times.

It is just that fossils of ancient humans are a rarity. Also several parts of sediment can bind DNA. Therefore a thorough search began regarding DNA in the dirt at various sites known to have been occupied in the distant past by hominins.

The sites scoured by the researchers included: Belgium, Russia, France, Croatia and Spain. The sediment samples that were collected date back from 14,000 years to 550,000 years in the past.

Tiny samples of this DNA dirt were analyzed in a scrupulous manner. The mitochondrial DNA was especially subjected to investigation. Mitochondria are the power houses of the cells.

The analysis showed that among the dirt DNA were genetic materials belonging to among other mammals, woolly mammoth, woolly rhinoceres, cave bears and cave hyenas.

Ancient hominin DNA was also found within the dirt samples. The scientists thought at first that human DNA would be too rare to be detected among the samples.

Nine samples of human DNA were recovered from the dirt though after much effort and backbreaking work. One of these belonged to Denisovan humans.

Eight belonged to Neanderthals. Via this method, the presence of hominins at various camp sites and caves in the ancient past can be said to have been a sure fact. DNA from dirt samples can be analyzed anytime and it has thus proven to be a reliable method of archaeological examination.

The findings of this study appear in the journal Science.

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<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/20" rel="author">Sumayah Aamir</a>
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