Estatuas cave in northern Spain was a hive of activity 105,000 years ago. Artifacts show its Neanderthal inhabitants hafted stone tools, butchered red deer, and may have made fires. They also shed, bled, and excreted subtler clues onto the cave floor: their own DNA. Researchers report this week that dirt from Estatuas has yielded the first nuclear DNA from an ancient human to be gleaned from sediments. Earlier studies reported shorter, more abundant human mitochondrial DNA from cave floors, but nuclear DNA, previously available only from bones and teeth, can be far more informative. The sequences reveal the genetic identity and sex of ancient cave dwellers and show that one group of Neanderthals replaced another in the Spanish cave about 100,000 years ago, perhaps after a climate cooling.
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