Not the Flintstones—it’s the Denisovans
Published: 25 January 2011 (GMT+10)
In 2008, a single finger bone, allegedly ‘30,000 years old’ and from a young girl, was found in Denisova Cave, an archeological site in southern Siberia. It looked like that of a modern human. Later, a solitary tooth was found that was said to look a bit different from both modern and Neanderthal teeth, and more like Homo erectus.1,2 DNA in both specimens (the preservation was “almost miraculous” according to one researcher) has yielded a draft genome, which shows the following:
- The two specimens were in fact from the same population, though from different individuals.
- The genome was neither typical of a modern person nor typical of a Neanderthal. It is regarded as coming from a distinct population, a ‘sister group’ to Neanderthals, dubbed the ‘Denisovans’.
- Denisovans like Neanderthals, have clearly intermingled with modern populations. In particular, some Melanesians found today in places such as Papua New Guinea share unique genes with the Denisovans. The Denisovans did not appear to mingle with the ancestors of other modern people, however, unlike Neanderthals, whose genes are found far and wide in places outside Africa.3
As with Neanderthals (from whom these Denisovans probably were a further splitoff), the evidence from hybridization scotches any notion that these were other than post-Babel descendants of Adam.
It is likely that there may be yet more such distinct (but distinctly human) populations turning up. Such genetic isolates likely resulted from further breakup of the already fragmented human gene pool post-Babel, especially during the harsh centuries of the post-Flood Ice Age. Small groups coming into sporadic contact with each other before migrating to more distant regions is the most likely cause of the fact that some 5% of the genomes of certain Melanesian populations show ‘Denisovan’ ancestry.
One of the leading researchers on this project was Richard Green from the University of California Santa Cruz. He said:
“Instead of the clean story we used to have of modern humans migrating out of Africa and replacing Neanderthals, we now see these very intertwined story lines with more players and more interactions than we knew of before.”
This is indicative of the state of evolutionary paleoanthropology as well as evolutionary paleogenetics. The picture, which appeared so clear just a few years ago, is suddenly garbled with new facts. The creationist interpretation, however, is the same as always. All people in the world descend from Noah and his family, who lived on the earth in the first centuries after the Flood. Neanderthals and Denisovans came from this population. How and when they split off is a matter of conjecture, but, since we know they share genes with modern people it is clear they both should be brought fully into the human family tree.
One other interesting thing emerged from the Denisovan study. It was easy to compare the new population to modern man, but in order to make comparisons to Neanderthal they needed more and better Neanderthal DNA to be sequenced. The results were startling, for the Neanderthals turned out to be very close relations to each other, and this includes individuals from Spain, Germany, Russia and Croatia. They were closer as a group than any of the modern populations used in the study. That is a very large area for a very closely related group of people to cover. The authors used the phrase “drastic bottleneck” to describe what they believe must have happened in the early years of the Neanderthal family line. We do not feel it is ‘drastic’ to believe the Neanderthals were one family group who spread out into western Eurasia in the years after the Flood, who intermingled with other people groups as they also spread out, and who eventually died out as many other people groups have done in history.
- Sciencedaily.com, 22 December 2010, accessed following day. See also Reich et al., Genetic history of an archaic hominin group from Denisova Cave in Siberia, Nature, 2010; DOI:10.1038/nature09710. Return to text.
- Homo habilis was mentioned in this context, too, but see the earlier discussion on this ‘phantom taxon’; this does not contribute meaningfully to the description. Return to text.
- Carter, R.W., Neandertal Genome Like Ours, 2010. Return to text.