A Denisovan finger fossil is revealing secrets about this extinct Stone Age race.

A decade ago, scientists excavating Denisova Cave , an ancient archaeological site in southern Siberia, discovered fossils of a previously unknown group of ancient humans. Nature reported in February this year how DNA had been found preserved in a finger bone and that this remote shelter was “one of the most important archaeological sites in the world.”

Denisova Cave: Soloneshensky District, Altai Territory (Demin Alexey Barnaul/CC BY SA 4.0)

Denisova Cave: Soloneshensky District, Altai Territory (Demin Alexey Barnaul/ CC BY SA 4.0 )

A 2012 Science News article said that the pinkie-bone contained “the first known Denisovan DNA” and now a team of researchers led by paleogeneticist E. Andrew Bennett of Paris Diderot University has identified “the rest” of the approximately 13-year-old female Denisovan’s  finger bone . And according to the new paper published on September 4 in  Science Advances , “Unexpectedly”, this ancient finger looks more human than Neanderthal, the scientists reported.

Anthropologists now know that Denisovans inhabited regions of Asia between 300,000 to 50,000 years ago and in a report in Harretz, Prof. Eva-Maria Geigl of Institute Jacques Monod, University of Paris explains: “Denisovan fingers were gracile like those of modern humans, explains, and not stubby digits with blunt ends like those of their sister species the Neanderthals.”

Replica of a Denisovan finger bone fragment, originally found in Denisova Cave in 2008. (Thilo Parg/CC BY SA 3.0)

Replica of a Denisovan finger bone fragment, originally found in Denisova Cave in 2008. (Thilo Parg/ CC BY SA 3.0)

Travelers of Ancient Planes

The newly identified finger fossil was recovered from Denisova Cave by Russian scientists in 2008 and belongs to the species of archaic human that is neither Neanderthal nor Homo sapiens . It was the only fragment of the species known to science until it was reported in May that a Denisovan jaw bone had been discovered 2,400 kilometers (about 1,500 miles) from the Siberian cave, on the Tibetan Plateau.

The new paper informs that the scientists “cut the specimen into two” and sent pieces to separate DNA-research teams for independent testing. One part was sent to the Max Planck Institute in Germany and the other to Geigl’s lab at the University of Berkeley where her team joined forces with researchers at the University of Bordeaux and the University of Toronto.

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