DNA From Modern Human Buried 7,000 Years Ago Shows Previously Unknown Ancient Human Relations

The Leang Panninge cave on the southern peninsula of Sulawesi, Indonesia. Credit: Leang Panninge Research Project

International research team isolates DNA from modern human buried 7,000 years ago on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi.

The international study was accomplished through close collaboration with several researchers and institutions from Indonesia. It was headed by Professor Johannes Krause of the Max Planck Institutes for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig and the Science of Human History in Jena, Professor Cosimo Posth of the Senckenberg Centre for Human Evolution and Palaeoenvironment at the University of Tübingen, and Professor Adam Brumm of Griffith University, Australia. The study has been published in the latest edition of Nature.

Almost completely preserved skeleton

The Wallacean Islands formed stepping stones in the spread of the first modern humans from Eurasia to Oceania, probably more than 50,000 years ago. Archaeological finds show that the ancestors of our species lived in Wallacea as early as 47,000 years ago. Yet few human skeletons have been found. One of the most distinctive archaeological discoveries in this region is the Toalean technology complex, dated to a much more recent period between 8,000 and 1,500 years ago. Among the objects manufactured by the people of the Toalean culture are the characteristic stone arrowheads known as Maros points. The Toalean culture has only been found in a relatively small area on the southern peninsula of Sulawesi. “We were able to assign the burial at Leang Panninge to that culture,” says Adam Brumm. “This is remarkable since it is the first largely complete and well-preserved skeleton associated with the Toalean culture.”

Excavations at the Leang Panninge site: The skeleton as found. Credit: Hasanuddin University, Indonesia

Selina Carlhoff, doctoral candidate at the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History and lead author of the study, isolated DNA from the petrous bone of the skull. “It was a major challenge, as the remains had been strongly degraded by the tropical climate,” she says. The analysis showed that the Leang Panninge individual was related to the first modern humans to spread to Oceania from Eurasia some 50,000 years ago. Like the genome of the indigenous inhabitants of New Guinea and Australia, the Leang Panninge individual’s genome contained traces of Denisovan DNA. The Denisovans are an extinct group of archaic humans known primarily from finds in Siberia and Tibet. “The fact that their genes are found in the hunter-gatherers of Leang Panninge supports our earlier hypothesis that the Denisovans occupied a far larger geographical area,” says Johannes Krause.

Another piece in the great genetic puzzle

A comparison with genomic data of hunter-gatherers who lived west of Wallacea at about the same time as the Leang Panninge individual provided further clues – that data showed no traces of Denisovan DNA. “The geographic distribution of Denisovans and modern humans may have overlapped in the Wallacea region. It may well be the key place where Denisova people and the ancestors of indigenous Australians and Papuans interbred,” says Cosimo Posth.

Stone arrowheads, known as Maros points, are up to 8,000 years old. They are considered typical of the Toalean techno-complex developed by the people living in the south of the island of Sulawesi. Credit: Yinika L Perston

However, the Leang Panninge individual also carries a large proportion of its genome from an ancient Asian population. “That came as a surprise, because we do know of the spread of modern humans from eastern Asia into the Wallacea region – but that took place far later, around 3,500 years ago. That was long after this individual was alive,” Johannes Krause reports. Furthermore, the research team has found no evidence that the group Leang Panninge belonged to left descendants among today’s population in Wallacea. It remains unclear what happened to the Toalean culture and its people. “This new piece of the genetic puzzle from Leang Panninge illustrates above all just how little we know about the genetic history of modern humans in southeast Asia,” Posth says.

Reference: “Genome of a middle Holocene hunter-gatherer from Wallacea” by Selina Carlhoff, Akin Duli, Kathrin Nägele, Muhammad Nur, Laurits Skov, Iwan Sumantri, Adhi Agus Oktaviana, Budianto Hakim, Basran Burhan, Fardi Ali Syahdar, David P. McGahan, David Bulbeck, Yinika L. Perston, Kim Newman, Andi Muhammad Saiful, Marlon Ririmasse, Stephen Chia, Hasanuddin, Dwia Aries Tina Pulubuhu, Suryatman, Supriadi, Choongwon Jeong, Benjamin M. Peter, Kay Prüfer, Adam Powell, Johannes Krause, Cosimo Posth and Adam Brumm, 25 August 2021, Nature.
DOI: 10.1038/s41586-021-03823-6

AnthropologyDenisovansEvolutionGeneticsMax Planck InstitutePopular
Comments ( 6 )
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  • Mickaela

    very interesting

  • Kazeem

    This proves that Adam and Eve were not the people created by God.

  • Kazeem

    This proves that Adam and Eve were not the first people created by God..Quran 2:31

  • C. Malek

    No-one has all the answers.

  • Ranman99

    That small pile of stuff in the corner of one of the pictures seems to indicate that the person may have died while housecleaning.

  • Zh

    I respect all comments and Just for clarification or introduction on what im gonna comment, the name “Allah” is Gods name in the arabic language even arabic christians use that holy name. And the 6th imam is the 6th from the 12 holy imams from the last prophets family ( prophet mohamed) . Prophet mohamed and his 12 successors were prophesied in many places in the holy bible and old testament including genesis 17:20 But as for Ishmael, I have heard thee: behold I have blessed him, and will make him fruitful, and will multiply him exceedingly; twelve princes shall he beget, and I will make him a great nation….
    They are from the great nation and are from the lineage of prophet Ishmael ……

    Now for My comment its just to clarify to brother kazeem the verse that he stated (quran 2:31) . Although im not a scholar to interpret these holy verses but will like to hint on This verse you quoted along with the 2 sayings below that went down in the pages of history ( 1400 years ago ) that actually prove that there were humans before prophet Adam and eve and they all became extinct. Sheikh Saduq ( high scholar ) has narrated a hadith in his book “Khisal” from Imam jaafar al Sadiq (pbuh) (6th muslem shia imam ) in which he says: “When Allah (swt) created the earth, he created seven worlds in it (and made each one extinct); none of those worlds [generations] were of Prophet Adam’s generation. Allah created all of them from the earth’s crust and brought them one after another, and created a world for each one after the other, until He created Prophet Adam and ramified his generation from him.”

    Moreover the same Sheikh Saduq narrates another hadith ( saying ) from Imam jaafar al Sadiq (as) in his book Tawhid in which the Imam explains: “You may assume that God has not created any humans other than you, but this is not true because he has created thousands of thousands of humans before you and you are the last generation of humans”. 
    As for the Holy Quran 2:30-33) Behold, thy Lord said to the angels: “I will create a vicegerent on earth.” They said: “Wilt Thou place therein one who will make mischief therein and shed blood?- whilst we do celebrate Thy praises and glorify Thy holy (name)?” He said: “I know what ye know not.”

    • And He taught Adam the names of all things; then He placed them before the angels, and said: “Tell me the names of these if ye are right.”

    • They said: “Glory to Thee, of knowledge We have none, save what Thou Hast taught us: In truth it is Thou Who art perfect in knowledge and wisdom.”

    • He said: “O Adam! Tell them their names.” When he had told them, Allah said: “Did I not tell you that I know the secrets of heaven and earth, and I know what ye reveal and what ye conceal?”..

      Its clear that this holy being will be different in knowledge and intellect than previous mankind creations and As for The angels questioning the cause or reason for prophet Adams creation or the  creation of beings who will cause bloodshed can clearly mean that the earth was previously  populated with  beings who shed eachothers blood and caused corruption which can indicate that there was creatures before prophet adam who caused this corruption on earth then the almighty decided to create a new being who can be a representative of the almighty on earth , a perfect creation, a guide to this new human creation who will be a prophet who will have prophets and guides like ( noah , abraham , moses , jesus , mohamed exct..) from his offspring till the end of time . All humans on earth today are from prophet adams lineage the last generation of mankind and the first human or modern man . This is where religion does not contridict scientific findings morever testifies to it.