Scientists to debate possible discovery of unknown hominin in South Siberia

Leading scientists will gather on Monday in South Siberia’s Altai Territory to discuss the possible discovery of remains of a previously unknown human relative, a leading Russian scientist told RIA Novosti.

Fossilized remains of the creature, unofficially dubbed the Denisova hominin, were discovered in 2008. The discovery was named after the Denisova Cave in Altai, where archaeologists dug out a pinkie finger fragment and a tooth of a person, who lived some 50,000 years ago and was genetically distinct from both early modern humans and Neanderthals.

The only contemporary humans to have a weak genetic tie with the genome of the Denisova hominin are Melanesians. They are believed to have about 4-6% of their genome in common.

The symposium would gather leading scientists from Russia, Germany, Japan, China, the United States, France, Czech Republic and Croatia.

“It would be a huge discussion. This discovery is linked to a huge complex of various historic issues of the earliest times,” said Mikhail Shunkov, deputy chief of the Institute of Archaeology and Ethnography, Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences.

Shunkov, a co-author of the first scientific article on the Denisova hominin, said he expected a heated debate, but expressed hope that the discovery of a previously unknown hominin type will be acknowledged by the global scientific community.

“Some might disagree. This is what a discussion is for. This is a normal scientific process,” he said.

Scientists have no idea of how Denisova hominins looked like, but they think they probably interacted with humans and Neanderthals, as the Denisova Cave lies miles from the known human and Neanderthal sites.

The discovery of bracelets and necklaces near the remains may indicate that they had culture, though the assumption is highly debatable, as the artifacts may have come from later periods.

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