Oldest Ever Human Genetic Evidence Clarifies Dispute Over Our Ancestors
(Courthouse News) — Researchers have made new discoveries about the earliest history of humanity’s family tree, thanks to a brand-new research technique and an 800,000-year-old tooth.
In a study published Wednesday in Nature, scientists from the University of Copenhagen reveal a new research method that allows them to study some of the earliest genetic histories of humanity. Using this new method, they studied in deep detail a roughly 800,000-year-old dental fossil from the Gran Dolina cave site in Sierra de Atapuerca, Spain, and learned some interesting truths about humanity’s ancient and sprawling family tree.
The discoveries center around Homo antecessor, an ancient human species believed to have thrived largely during the Old Stone Age. Homo antecessor is widely viewed as an integral part to humanity’s early family tree, but its exact placement and connections with other human species, such as Neanderthals and Denisovans, has never been fully explained.
Wednesday’s study, however, helps to fill in much of those gaps.
Using a chemical analysis method known as paleoproteomics, researchers examined the proteins found within the enamel of the 800,000-year-old dental fossil. After sequencing and breaking apart the chemical data, scientists found the Homo antecessor was much more closely related to early modern humans than previously believed.
Reconstruction of Homo antecessor skull (Museu d’Arqueologia de Catalunya, Barcelona, Spain)