COPENHAGEN, DENMARK—According to a Science Magazine report, Huan Xia of the Chinese Academy of Sciences and Frido Welker of the University of Copenhagen identified a Denisovan rib bone found in Baishiya Karst Cave on the Tibetan Plateau among the remains of yaks, deer, hyenas, wolves, snow leopards, golden eagles, pheasants, and bharal, an animal also known as the blue sheep. The identification of the hominin rib was made through the analysis of proteins in its collagen with zooarchaeology by mass spectrometry, or ZooMS. The amino acid sequences in the rib were determined to be a close match to those found in the remains of a Denisovan girl who lived in Siberia’s Altai Mountains some 50,000 years ago. Many of the animal bones in the study bore cut marks likely made by stone tools found in the same layers of the cave, which indicates that Denisovans processed the animals for their meat, marrow, and hides, and may have made tools from some of the bones. The Denisovan rib has been dated to between 48,000 and 32,000 years ago, when modern humans also lived in the region. Modern Tibetans are known to carry a gene variant, thought to have been inherited from Denisovans, that helps them to breathe at high elevations. The researchers suggest that this contact between Denisovans and modern humans may have occurred on the Tibetan Plateau. Read the original scholarly article about this research in Nature. To read about analysis of another bone uncovered in the cave, go to “Denisovans at Altitude,” one of ARCHAEOLOGY‘s Top 10 Discoveries of 2019.

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