ANCIENT HYENA POO SHEDS NEW LIGHT ON HUMAN EVOLUTION
Fossil animal droppings, charcoal from ancient fires, and bone fragments littering the ground of one of the world’s most important human evolution sites have revealed fascinating insights into an obscure branch of early humans and predators. The team of Australian and Russian scientists, including ARC Future Fellow, Associate Professor Mike Morley at Flinders University and the Director of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Australian Biodiversity and Heritage , Professor Richard ‘Bert’ Roberts at the University of Wollongong, used modern geoarchaeological techniques to unearth new details of day-to-day life in the famous Denisova Cave complex in Siberia’s Altai Mountains. Their microscopic analysis of the sedimentary deposits of the cave suggests that large carnivores once dominated the landscape, competing with ancient humans for prime space in cave shelters for more than 300,000 years. The Siberian site came to prominence more than a decade ago with the discovery of the fossil remains of a previously unknown human group dubbed the Denisovans, after the local name for the cave. The research implies that these ancient people probably came and went for short-lived episodes. It also reveals new information about the climate inside the cave through prehistoric time, and the use of fire. “EARLY NOMADIC HUMAN GROUPS AND LARGE CARNIVORES SUCH AS HYENAS AND WOLVES LEFT A WEALTH OF MICROSCOPIC TRACES THAT ILLUMINATE THE USE OF THE CAVE OVER THE LAST THREE GLACIAL-INTERGLACIAL CYCLES,” SAYS ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR MIKE MORLEY.
Hyena Smiling. Istock.com/rkraan.
UNDERSTANDING OUR WORLD THROUGH FUNDAMENTAL RESEARCH
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