New Discovery Puts Human Inhabitants In Tibet More Than 160,000 Years Ago
2019-07-05
Almost 40 years ago, a Tibetan Buddhist monk entered one of the many sacred local hermitage caves to pray, and uncovered a human jawbone with two teeth still embedded in the bone. For thirty years, the jawbone languished in a storeroom in the Lanzhou University in China, until it was rediscovered by an archaeologist who began studying its unique shape. Deciding it was not from a modern human, Dr. Dongju Zhang traveled to the Jiangla River Valley in Xiahe County of Gansu to find the cave that the jawbone came from and made one of the most exciting archaeological discoveries of the last 50 years – the jawbone was from a Denisovan man.
 
 The Denisovan jawbone that was discovered on the Tibetan Plateau in Gansu Province at an altitude of 3,280 meters.
The Denisovan jawbone that was discovered on the Tibetan Plateau in Gansu Province at an altitude of 3,280 meters.
 
After having the jawbone dated using a technique called uranium-series dating, which works on carbon deposits on the bone, it was discovered that it dated back to around 160,000 years ago, and was the first evidence of the existence of Denisovan Man outside the cave in Siberia that gave the species its name, the Denisova Cave. Relatives of the modern humans, it is believed that the species once roamed all across Asia, and interbred with both Neanderthals and Homo sapiens, which resulted in their eventual extinction.
 
 A virtual reconstruction of the Tibetan jaw in which an adhering crust was digitally removed.
A virtual reconstruction of the Tibetan jaw in which an adhering crust was digitally removed.
 
Denisovans are believed to have lived between 287,000 years ago and 50,000 years ago, and DNA results have shown that they bear a common ancestor with Neanderthals from more than 400,000 years ago. Today, all of the native inhabitants of East Asia, Australia, and the Pacific Islands carry that unique Denisovan DNA, which suggests that the prehistoric race may have lived all across East and Southeast Asia more than 100,000 years ago.
 
 The cave in which the jawbone was found sits in the rugged JIangla River Valley.
The cave in which the jawbone was found sits in the rugged JIangla River Valley.
 
After a small excavation at the cave by Dr. Zhang and her colleagues, ancient tools and signs of permanent habitation were uncovered. After a delicate study of the proteins found in the two teeth left in the jawbone, it was confirmed that the jawbone was a match to the Denisovan DNA previously uncovered in Siberia. This discovery has given scientists more evidence of the link between the ability of the Tibetan people to survive at high altitudes and their genetic link to the Denisovan Man.
 
 The limestone cave in which the jawbone was found, above a riverbed on the Tibetan plateau. Buddhist monks visiting the cave to pray discovered humanlike remains inside.
The limestone cave in which the jawbone was found, above a riverbed on the Tibetan plateau.
Buddhist monks visiting the cave to pray discovered humanlike remains inside.

 
Tibetans do not automatically make the extra hemoglobin in their red blood cells that is required for people to survive in high altitudes with lower oxygen levels. This is due to a unique gene in their make-up, which has also been found in the genetic make-up of the Denisovans.
 
 Inside the limestone cave above the Jiangla River Valley where the jawbone was found.
Inside the limestone cave above the Jiangla River Valley where the jawbone was found.
 
Dozens of puzzling bones have been found over the years that have yet to be classified to any one species, and which are believed to be as much as 100,000 years old, from all over western China and Eastern Tibet. These bones may now be compared to the Denisovan jawbone to see if the proteins match. And if positive DNA from the many strange bones that have been found can be confirmed as definitely matching the Denisovan DNA samples from Siberia, it will be proof of the existence of the Denisovan people on the plateau hundreds of thousands of years before Homo sapiens even attempted to venture there.

A team led by Dr. Dongju Zhang excavate the cave where the jawbone was discovered that has been traced to a mysterious human species called the Denisovans.
A team led by Dr. Dongju Zhang excavate the cave where the jawbone was discovered that has been
traced to a mysterious human species called the Denisovans.
TAG: tibetan denisovan siberia denisovan prehistoric man in tibet link to tibetan DNA from Denisovan denisovan found on plateau

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