From Ice Age Siberia, a New Species of Man; DNA Testing on Bone Sheds Light on Human History

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Byline: David Derbyshire Environment Editor

A MYSTERIOUS new species of human who lived alongside our ancestors 30,000 years ago has been discovered.

The cavemen were identified from DNA taken from a tooth and finger bone found in a cave in Siberia.

Named Denisovans by scientists, they walked the Earth during the last Ice Age when modern humans were developing sophisticated stone tools, jewellery and art.

The finding means there were at least three distinct members of the human family alive at the time - modern humans, Denisovans and Neanderthals.

The bone belonged to a young girl nicknamed X-Woman, although she was actually aged between five and seven.

It was found in the Denisova cave in the Altai Mountains in southern Siberia in 2008 alongside ornaments and jewellery.

Provisional tests published earlier this year suggested X-Woman belonged to an entirely new species.

Now a full DNA analysis has confirmed her place on the increasingly complex human family tree. The Denisovans were physically different from the thickset Neanderthals and modern humans, although they also walked upright.

They lived at a time when our ancestors, and the Neanderthals, were fishing and hunting, wearing jewellery, painting caves and making animal carvings.

The DNA tests show that the tooth and finger bone came from different people, researchers report in the journal Nature.

The tooth resembles much older human ancestors, such as Homo erectus, who died out one million years ago.

The study found extracts of Denisovan DNA in modern-day inhabitants of Melanesia, the islands to the north and east of Australia which include New Guinea.

This suggests that the Denisovans interbred with the ancestors of Melanesians and may have been widespread in Asia.

It is only in the last decade that scientists have been able to retrieve DNA from fossils. Before that they could identify bones only from their shape and size. …