The 88th Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (2019)

In search of the Denisovans: biomolecular ways for the identification of new human fossils in the Eurasian archaeological record


1Department of Archaeology, Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, 2School of Archaeology, University of Oxford, 3Siberian Branch, Russian Academy of Sciences

March 28, 2019 9:15, CC Ballroom A Add to calendar

Since the publication of genome sequences from Denisovans and Neanderthals, research into the evolutionary significance of processes such as large scale human migrations and interbreeding, has flourished. Yet the lack of well provenanced, reliably dated and genetically analyzed human remains from Late Pleistocene Asia, and especially the lack of Denisovans outside the unique eponymous locus, is noticeable.

In this talk, we will introduce an interdisciplinary project (“FINDER”) that applies a combination of analytical techniques to identify, characterize and analyse new hominin remains from several sites in Eurasia with the aim of finding new Denisovan fossils. At the heart of the project lies an analytical technique called collagen peptide mass fingerprinting, or ZooMS. ZooMS is a fast and cheap technique that utilises the internal variation of bone collagen peptides to taxonomically classify a bone. The method has immense potential in identifying hominin bone remains from highly fragmentary bone assemblages. Here we apply this method to bones from several sites in North and SE Asia aiming to find new Denisovans and expand their geographic distribution further in space and time.

This project has received funding from the European Research Council (ERC) under the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreements ERC-2016-StG-715069-FINDER (to KD) and ERC-2012-AdG-324139-PalaeoChron (to TH).