Denisovan ancestry and population history of early East Asians
Ancient, anatomically modern humans interbred with the archaic hominins Neanderthals and Denisovans. However, the extent of this interbreeding and how it affects modern populations is not well understood. Massilani et al. generated genome-wide data from a 34,000-year-old female individual from the Salkhit Valley in eastern Mongolia and conducted a detailed modeling of her ancestry with regard to other Pleistocene human genomes. They found evidence for Denisovan ancestry in ancient human genomes from at least 6000 years before the Salkhit individual lived and determined that the Denisovan contribution differed from that of another ancient Asian individual, as well as from the ancient Denisovan contribution to extant Australasians. This reference point helps us to understand the early history of our species in Eurasia, especially Eastern Eurasia, for which genomic evidence remains scarce.Science, this issue p. 579We present analyses of the genome of a ~34,000-year-old hominin skull cap discovered in the Salkhit Valley in northeastern Mongolia. We show that this individual was a female member of a modern human population that, following the split between East and West Eurasians, experienced substantial gene flow from West Eurasians. Both she and a 40,000-year-old individual from Tianyuan outside Beijing carried genomic segments of Denisovan ancestry. These segments derive from the same Denisovan admixture event(s) that contributed to present-day mainland Asians but are distinct from the Denisovan DNA segments in present-day Papuans and Aboriginal Australians.