A rare species of primitive man lived in the Eurasia forest 200,000 years ago, and according to a new survey published on Wednesday, he may have produced tools and even jewelery.
Denisovani – the cousin of the Neanderthal – was discovered in 2010 when scientists working in a cave in southern Siberia obtained a finger bone from a girl belonging to a previously unidentified group of people.
Since they are only found in Denis Caves, they are less well known than their more famous Neanderthals, who made sophisticated hunting strategies in their groups, producing fire, tools and clothing.
In two papers published in Nature, two international teams of scientists now claim that the Denis inhabit the cave 200,000 years ago.
In order to reach this conclusion, they had to overcome several obstacles that cause prototype human dating to be particularly difficult.
"The great challenge is that human remains are microscopic – the largest is 2 cm tall and they are really difficult because they all fall either directly or beyond radiocarbon dating," said Tom Higham, director of the Oxford University Hydrocarbon Accelerator Unit and author of the study for the agency AFP.
Carbon Dating, which uses the half-life of radioactive carbon isotopes to display the age of organic matter, is only reliable for samples up to 50,000 years.
Higham and thus discovered several previously unidentified bone fragments and managed to extract them from one DNA sample.
They then used a mathematical model, which consisted of available carbon data, sediment dating, genomic mutation rates, and archaeological information to determine with a high degree of certainty when the inhabitants of Denis inhabited their eponymous dwelling.
"200,000 years ago, perhaps more than 50,000 when the Denizs disappear," Higham said.
As well as human remains, scientists have found perforated animal teeth, possibly used as necklaces, bones, ostrich necklace beads, and stone bracelets – all artifacts previously associated with modern humans and recently with Neanderthals.
There are no other hominimic remains in the cave areas where objects were found, Higham said the "most likely explanation" was that they were the work of the Denizans.
"The oldest buildings date from 49,000 years ago, the earliest evidence we have of this kind of behavior in northern Eurasia, if not the entire Eurasian continent," he said.
"Evidence suggests that the most likely explanation is that they are doing them by Denis."
If confirmed, the finding could change what we know about how our ancestors survived and socialized.
Denis's cave last appeared in subtitles in August and discovered Denny, a semi-natural Neanderthal half-denis hybrid, which was the first proof of mutual breeding between the two early human species.
The study team said he now believes that Denny appeared about 100,000 years ago, meaning that Neanderthal and Denis can be stretched for millennia before they disappear 40,000 years ago.
Writing in Nature, Robin Dennell from Archeology at Exeter University, said that the new studies provided "a rigorous and persuasive timeline for the cave and its contents."
(In addition to the title, this story was not worked by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated source.)