Just in from Atapuerca, northern Spain: mitochondrial DNA has been retrieved from the bones of Homo heidelbergensis.
The Sima de los Huesos, or pit of bones, has been a treasure trove of human remains, and has yielded a minimum number of 28 individuals dating to at least 300,000 years ago. This type of preservation and concentration of human remains is rare—most excavations are lucky to turn up a stray hominin tooth every couple of seasons.
Not to mention mitochondrial DNA typically does not have such a long shelf-life. After a successful attempt at analyzing cave bear DNA from the Sima, researchers decided to risk portions of valuable human remains for testing. The MtDNA did turn out to be viable, and the provided some seriously unexpected results.
The outcome of the mtDNA analysis demonstrates that the Sima matrilineal tree shares its roots with Denisovan populations, a group of archaic…
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