Scientists have discovered that a mysterious human species lived on the Tibetan Plateau long before modern humans.
Not only does this prove that humans lived on the Tibetan Plateau tens of thousands of years earlier than what we believed now, but it also means that the first humans to cope with extremely harsh environments were not modern humans, but Denisovans.
Denisovans were ancient humans who lived in regions of Siberia, and migrates as far as southeast Asia. They have been credited for developing elaborate tools, weapons, and even jewelry.
Mainstream scholars maintained that humans did not migrate to the Tibetan Plateau until relatively recently, some 12,000 years ago, and occupied it permanently, around 3,600 years ago.
But the archaeological site of Nwya Devu has forced us to rethink the timeline of human occupation in the Tibetan Plateau.
The archaeological site, located at an altitude of 4600 meters above sea level has provided experts with thousands of stone tools, including knives, and even organic remains.
Scientists established based on soil samples, that the oldest tools at the site are between 40,000 and 30,000 years old.
“What we know is that the Denisovans left their homeland in the Altai Mountains of southern Siberia and eventually trekked all the way to Melanesia [the islands northeast of Australia], taking with them their signature genome,” Dr. John Olsen a scientist at the University of Arizona in Tucson told New Scientist.
“One logical route for such a migration may have included passage up and over the Tibetan Plateau,” he added.
The archaeological site of Nwya Devu has long been excavated by experts and is known for a large number of artifacts including tools that scientists have recovered throughout the years.
A mysterious Piece of DNA
And evidence of the presence of Denisovans some 40,000 years ago in the Tibetan Plateau is found in modern Tibetans.
According to scientists, most Tibetans carry a novel piece of DNA in their genome which can be traced back to the interbreeding between Homo sapiens and members of Denisovans.
This chunk of ‘rare’ DNA is believed to be responsible for allowing the Natives of the region to cope with the limited supply of oxygen found at extreme heights.
“What we know is that the Denisovans left their homeland in the Altai Mountains of southern Siberia and eventually trekked all the way to Melanesia [the islands northeast of Australia], taking with them their signature genome,” Dr. Olsen says.
“One logical route for such a migration may have included passage up and over the Tibetan Plateau.”
The research was published in the Journal of Science.