The remains found in the remote Denisova cave in Siberia in 2008 were modest: a fingertip and two teeth. In 2011, scientists led by Svante Pääbo announced they had reconstructed an entire human genome from these fragments – discovering a lineage of ancient humans never known before. For the first time, a new group of extinct humans was defined just from DNA evidence and not from bone morphology. The Denisovans – dated in this study to about 80,000 years ago – share more genes with people from Papua New Guinea than any other modern population studied. This suggests that Denisovans and modern humans might have crossed paths in central Asia.
Did you know? The Denisova cave is the one spot on Earth that we know of where Neanderthals, Denisovans, and modern Homo sapiens all lived at some point.