Ancient DNA from a teen girl reveals previously unknown group of humans

WION Web Team
Jakarta, IndonesiaUpdated: Aug 26, 2021, 10:38 AM IST


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Earlier, bones belonging to a 'new type of early human' previously unknown to science were found in Israel

The bones of a skeleton found in an Indonesian cave, which are 7,200 years old appears to have ancestry unlike any other human found to date as per researchers.

Nicknamed Bessé’, she is the first known skeleton from an early foraging culture called the Toaleans. 

Genomic analysis shows that this ancient individual was a distant relative of Aboriginal Australians and Papuans. 

But it also revealed that Bessé’ is a rare ‘genetic fossil’, in the sense that she belonged to a group with an ancestral history that was unlike that of any previously known human population.

The surprising discovery has been published in the journal Nature, is the first time ancient human DNA has been reported from ‘Wallacea’, the vast group of islands between Borneo and New Guinea and the gateway to the continent of Australia.   

The Sulawesi remains were excavated in 2015 from a cave called Leang Panninge. They belong to a young female hunter-gatherer who was about 17-18 years old at time of death. She was buried in a foetal position and partially covered by rocks.

Stone tools and red ochre (iron-rich rock used to make pigment) were found in her grave, along with bones of hunted wild animals.  

Earlier, bones belonging to a "new type of early human" previously unknown to science were found in Israel.

The fossils dated between 140,000 and 120,000 years ago, and the team believes the Nesher Ramla type would have overlapped with Homo sapiens, the lineage of modern humans. 

Geneticists studying European Neanderthal DNA have previously suggested the existence of a Neanderthal-like population, dubbed the 'missing population' or the 'X population', which would have interbred with Homo sapiens more than 200,000 years ago. 

(With inputs from agencies)