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Fresh discoveries of ancient man's bone in Altai Mountains cave

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14 August 2015


The discoveries have led to palpable excitement among scientists in Siberia. Picture: Andrey Krivoshapkin

Fragments of an early human skull and rib were found in Pleistocene era layers in Strashnaya Cave, it was announced today by Professor Andrey Krivoshapkin, head of Archeology and Ethnography at Novosibirsk State University. These are expected to be 'no younger than 50,000 years' old, he said. 

Another find, dating to at least 35,000 years ago, was a tiny fragment of finger bone - a nail phalange.

'We struck really lucky this year,' he said. 'During works at Pleistocene levels of Strashnaya Cave we found new anthropological material. In levels dating to 35,000 to 40,000 years ago, we found a fragment of a human nail phalanx.

'Further down (in older layers) there was a fragment of a human skull and, even further, a fragment of a rib which we believe is human.'

He stated: 'Both the skull and the rib should be no younger than 50,000 years old.'

The discoveries have led to palpable excitement among scientists in Siberia. 

Fresh discoveries of ancient man's bone in Altai Mountains cave

Fresh discoveries of ancient man's bone in Altai Mountains cave
'We struck really lucky this year,' Andrey Krivoshapkin (pictured) said. Pictures: Andrey Krivoshapkin

The academic said that 'in an ideal world we would like to have the nail phalange to belong to a modern man, carrying genes of both Neanderthal and Denisovan man, and the older find (the skull) belonging to Neanderthal Man, and the oldest fragment - the rib - to be from Denisovan man.'

However, he cautioned: 'Right now, however these are just my fantasies.  As we know, analysis results might turn out to be completely unexpected. But whatever the results, they will help us understand the interaction of modern humans, Neanderthals and Denisovans in the Altai territory.'

It is the first discovery of man's remains at the cave for more than a quarter of a century. In 1989, archeologists found human teeth dating to the Upper Paleolithic period, around 20,000 years ago. The skull fragment was found alongside 'labour tools' which match previously discovered implements confirmed as belong to Neanderthals, he said.

The cave stands on the left bank of the River Inya, some 2.5 km north of Tigiryok village in Altai region. Earlier excavations here found variety of Stone Age tools along with Bronze, Iron and Middle Ages pottery. 

Fresh discoveries of ancient man's bone in Altai Mountains cave

Fresh discoveries of ancient man's bone in Altai Mountains cave
Strashnaya (Scary) Cave, Altai, Siberia. Pictures: Andrey Krivoshapkin

The cave is around 125 kilometres west of the more famous Denisova Cave which changed our understanding of the origins of man.

Denisova was home through many millennia to both Neanderthals and our modern human ancestors. It was here that, in 2008, a tiny finger bone fragment of so-called 'X woman' was discovered,  a young female who lived around 41,000 years ago, analysis of which indicated that she was genetically distinct from both Neanderthals and modern humans.

This previously unknown hominin species or subspecies - long extinct - was christened the Denisovans after the name of this cave. One conclusion from analysis of ancient bone fragments is that our own species, Homo sapiens, occasionally had assignations with both Neanderthals and Denisovans.

Scientists working at Denisova Cave are also currently believed to be working in collaboration with experts at Oxford University in the UK on a significant new find of ancient bone 

Comments (12)

I'm showing a bit of this DNA through ancient dna analysis on gedmatch, has there been a lot?
Cherry, United States
17/09/2018 11:00
Hello. On my iPad I just save link content then read it offline. But sûre as interesting as Denisova cave srory. But , à question: if isnowadays a matter of dna, I mean looking for human présence and detetmining what soecie it was, then it is useful to analyse even sands in such cave, whether fossiles (big fossils) are found there or not. They might have desingrated recently....may be contain dna.
Sami, Sfax, TN
18/03/2016 19:08
Central Asia including Altai Region / both Russian and Mongolian part / was one of main birth place of modern human. Also it was one of mayor route of great migration of first human beings.
Scientist discovered many evidences of early human settlements in Modern Mongolia.
Batu, Ulanbator,Mongolia
01/02/2016 15:11
That is certainly the archetypal cave entrance. Very beautiful spot. I'll be looking forward to hearing more about these treasures.
Murmur1, Grants Pass/ USA
09/09/2015 05:17
I am so tired of MALE archaeologists - their brain is only linear, they see 30 percent - its time to demote them all and put women in charge of the past, science has proved her brain is more advanced and sees 360% - i can't even read male archaeologists crap anymore, is so off base and childish
time of death of time, the world
03/09/2015 01:56
If there was ever a cave that represented the uterus of the mother goddess to these ancients then this is it. I got a boner from these pictures.
Rick Moon, Embro, Canada
31/08/2015 04:31
Exciting news. I'm bookmarking Siberian Times. It's my first time finding this website.
willam, Banks, Alabama
31/08/2015 00:44
There are probably a lot of Denisovan remains in museum drawers, put under "archaic Homo Sapiens" or "late Homo erectus" labels that have been used for 300 000 - 50 000 old human remains from Asia with conflicting features. There just needs to be tests to recover DNA that can be tested.

Based on this we should assume that the Denisovans didn't have any special features that would make their remains to clearly stand out from an assemblage of of late Homo erectus, Homo heidelbergensis or Homo neanderthalensis remains. Their differences would have been on the levels of genes, flesh and skin.
Raimo Kangasniemi, Juupajoki, Finland
17/08/2015 20:30
I've always felt there had to be more Denisovian bones out there, it always seemed very strange to me that they have only been found in one cave. I sincerely hope that the researcher is correct and that the older bones are Denisovian--I also hope that they are going through older bones in museum collections and checking to see if they are actually sapiens or Neanderthal or erectus. Many times new species have been found in museum collections that had been misidentified as a different, known species originally and it would not surprise me if something similar happened with hominid bones. Perhaps other Denisovians could be found this way.
Gloria, Portland, Oregon USA
17/08/2015 12:13
For some, it is difficult to wrap ones head around the fact that we "Humans" in one species or another, have been around much much longer than is presently the belief. Our origins date back much earlier. I understand how some religious beliefs will have an effect on how individuals interpret this. I look at archaeology in respect that science and religion do not mix, like oil and water. A much more open mind as to this approach may be the key to understanding what actually lies beneath layers of sediment. After all, we are just monkeys with car keys, but knowing just how long we have been around may be quite the surprise.
Janet Horwith, Phoenix,AZ USA
16/08/2015 21:16
Keep us updated with any results. How many months of the year can your team access the cave ? Thank you Siberian Times for your articles and photos.
Scott Maxwell, Meridian, United States
16/08/2015 02:53
Interesting article - I can't wait for follow up. I enjoy Siberian Times photographs - you always have many large photos which add value to the stories. Thank-you for doing a good job
Steven Lang, Grahamstown, South Africa
15/08/2015 16:30

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