Timing of archaic hominin occupation of Denisova Cave in southern Siberia
The Altai region of Siberia was inhabited for parts of the Pleistocene by at least two groups of archaic hominins—Denisovans and Neanderthals. Denisova Cave, uniquely, contains stratified deposits that preserve skeletal and genetic evidence of both hominins, artefacts made from stone and other materials, and a range of animal and plant remains. The previous site chronology is based largely on radiocarbon ages for fragments of bone and charcoal that are up to 50,000 years old; older ages of equivocal reliability have been estimated from thermoluminescence and palaeomagnetic analyses of sediments, and genetic analyses of hominin DNA. Here we describe the stratigraphic sequences in Denisova Cave, establish a chronology for the Pleistocene deposits and associated remains from optical dating of the cave sediments, and reconstruct the environmental context of hominin occupation of the site from around 300,000 to 20,000 years ago.