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


A parietal fragment from Denisova cave

BENCE T. VIOLA1, PHILIPP GUNZ2, SIMON NEUBAUER2, VIVIANE SLON3, MAXIM B. KOZLIKIN4, MICHAEL V. SHUNKOV4,5, MATTHIAS MEYER3, SVANTE PÄÄBO3 and ANATOLY P. DEREVIANKO4,6.

1Department of Anthropology, University of Toronto, 2Department of Human Evolution, Max-Planck-Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, 3Department of Evolutionary Genetics, Max-Planck-Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, 4Institute of Archaeology and Ethnography, Russian Academy of Sciences, Siberian Branch, 5Department of Archaeology, Novosibirsk State University, 6Department of Archaeology, Altai State University

March 28, 2019 , CC Ballroom A Add to calendar

The Denisovans are an Asian sister group of Neanderthals, originally described based on ancient DNA from a phalanx fragment from Denisova Cave (Altai Mountains, Russian Federation). Since then, three teeth found in the cave have been identified from this group. Genetic data indicates that this population contributed genes to modern humans across large parts of Asia and in Melanesia, but currently, no fossils from outside Denisova Cave have been clearly attributed to Denisovans. One reason for this is that the extremely limited morphological evidence hampers comparisons. A newly discovered parietal fragment, Denisova 13, attributed to the Denisovans based on its mtDNA, gives us a first glimpse at the Denisovan cranial morphology.

Denisova 13 derives from the South Gallery of Denisova cave, although due to a collapse of the section, its stratigraphic position is not secure. Based on its preservation and the accompanying sediments we tentatively attribute it to Layer 22.The specimen consists of two adjoining fragments of the posterior half of the left parietal, extending about 78 mm laterally of lambda, and about 51 mm anteriorly, preserving portions of both the sagittal and lambdoid sutures.

We compare Denisova 13 to a large sample of recent and fossil modern humans, Neanderthals and Middle Pleistocene Homo, using geometric morphometrics based on three-dimensional landmarks and sliding semilandmarks collected on computed-tomographic scans and surface scans.

We will discuss the implications of these comparisons to our understanding of Middle and Late Pleistocene hominins in Asia.

Funding: Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (Insight 430-2016-00590 to BV), European Research Council (694707 to SP), the Max-Planck-Society, and the Russian Science Foundation (14-50-00036 to MVS, APD and MBK).