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DNA Sequencing in Chaco Canyon

Current Issues in DNA Sequencing

image from d1o50x50snmhul.cloudfront.netOrdinarily this GCAS blog emphasizes topics that are directly related to our particular geographic area. However, this article via The Atlantic, about recent anthropological discoveries in the Denisova cave in Siberia, is relevant to us because it illustrates how DNA technology is impelling scientists to change their assumptions about how archaic and modern humans migrated, and how they interacted with the groups they encountered.

[Above photo: Excavation works in the East Chamber of Denisova Cave, Russia; by Bence Viola, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology]

Read the whole article and don't forget to click on the links. Long story short, DNA analysis of 50,000-year-old bone fragments recovered from Denisova cave disclosed an individual who was the daughter of a Neanderthal mother and a Denisovan father. Moreover, the Neanderthal mother's DNA was found to be most closely related to Neanderthal DNA previously found in Croatia instead of to the DNA from other Neanderthal remains found in Denisova cave. Denisovan DNA is still found in human populations in Asia and Melanesia. These discoveries suggest that both Neanderthals and Denisovans - and modern humans as well - migrated extensively and in multiple waves throughout Eastern Europe and Asia. And interacted with one another closely enough to, ahem, produce offspring.

One of the scientists involved in the Denisova cave project explained how the team's initial assumptions in their excavation of the cave had to change completely after the DNA results became known. Paraphrasing Svante Pääbo, the director of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology: the way scientists and we devoted amateurs speculate about the past says much more about our own ideas about humans and how they must have lived, than does anything about what may have actually occurred. That is a concept that holds as true in archaeological study in the Mimbres Valley as it does in Siberia.

/s/ webmaster 


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