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Did Denisovans usher in the Stone Age in Mongolia?

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19 August 2019


‘If the Denisovans existed both in Altai and in China, they could not help but pass through Mongolia.' Picture here and below: IAET SB RAS

The early human species known as Denisovans were initially known only for living in a cave in the Altai Mountains. 

Recent analysis of the teeth in a jawbone found on the Tibetan plateau in China’s Gansu province and dated as 160,000 years fixed the remains of this extinct grouping outside Siberia for the first time. 

Now Siberian scientists are to examine whether large pointed stone implements found at two archeological sites in Mongolia offer proof of the Denisovan existence here, too. 

The tools resemble those known to be used by jewellery-making Denisovans in the Denisova Cave in Altai.

Stone implements found at Tolbor

Stone and ostrich egg shell beads from Tolbor

Pointed plates and beads of stone and ostrich egg shell from Tolbor-4 and tolbor-16. 

So who brought the stone remains to Mongolia, Home sapiens or the elusive Denisovans?

Dr Arina Khatsenovich, researcher of the Institute of Archaeology and Ethnography in Novosibirsk, said the ‘prevailing view’ is that Homo sapiens were behind the implements unearthed at sites Tolbor-4 and Tolbor-16.

‘But the recent discovery of a Denisovan jaw in Gansu province in China has mixed things up. We now know that Denisovans definitely lived on the territory of modern China. 

‘We consider Mongolia as a crossroads of the ways of ancient people at different stages of its development. 

‘If the Denisovans existed both in Altai and in China, they could not help but pass through Mongolia, especially given that similar implements were found in Altai.’

Denisova Cave implements

Beads found in Denisova Cave

Beads found in Denisova Cave

Stone implements and beads found in Denisova Cave.

‘The most recent date for the Upper Paleolithic implements from Tolbor valley is 45,000 years.

'The earliest date for Homo Sapience in Siberia is also around 45,000 years - so called Ust-Isim man.

'But it is also roughly close to the latest traces of Denisovans in Denisova Cave.

We consider such a probability that the Upper Paleolithic culture can be brought to the Northern Mongolia by Denisovans too.

'Sadly there are no anthropological remains linked to this culture, so until we get some, we will not have any clear answer.’ 

A cave called Tsagan-Agui in Mongolia is now attracting particular interest.

‘We have big expectations about this,’ said the researcher.

‘We plan to do a DNA analysis of the sediments in the cave to check if there are traces here of Homo Sapiens or Denisovans.’

Denisovans are the third branch of humans in addition to Home sapiens and Neanderthals. 



Could the Denisovans left their traces in Tolbor, Mongolia on the way from Altai to China?

Russian archeologists have credited them with creating stunning jewellery including a bracelet of  green-hued chlorite.

The Denisovan branch of ancient man was first identified more than a decade ago when a tiny finger bone fragment of so-called 'X woman' was discovered in this cave.

She was found to be neither Homo sapiens nor Neanderthal. 

Later details were revealed in Nature journal of the discovery of a fragment of bone belonging to an inter-species love child called Denny who lived some 90,000 years ago.

She was the product of a sexual liaison between a Neanderthal mother and a Denisovan father, according to DNA findings.

Dr Arina Khatsenovich, researcher of the Institute of Archaeology and Ethnography  in Novosibirsk.

Arina Khatsenovich

Comments (3)

I wouldn't be surprised at all if these artifacts wre indeed made by the Denisovans. They must have had a wider range of settlements and hunting areas, and they must also have been highly developed technologically and culturally. To the Siberian Times and to Dr. Arina: thank you and keep up the good work! I hope and expect to hear from you again sooner or later! Best regards from Portugal,
Prof. Dr. Francisco Espírito-Santo, Coimbra/PORTUGAL
30/09/2019 03:40
Great variety of original and well researched articles.
Noel McGloin, Dublin, Ireland
21/08/2019 20:34
The Siberian Times presents truly fascinating articles. Thank you for your refreshing brand of journalism. And, keep up the excellent work, Dr. Arina. Thank you for all the work you do. Cheers.
Chad Hammond, United States
20/08/2019 10:13

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