Lost and Found
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Scientists recently identified the wearer of a 20,000-year-old pendant that was found in the renowned Denisova Cave in eastern Siberia, Reuters reported.
In a new study, a research team used a new method to extract DNA from the ancient artifact – a pierced elk tooth.
The technique allowed them to isolate genetic material present in skin cells or bodily fluids that can be absorbed by different types of porous materials, such as teeth or tusks.
The findings showed that the prehistoric pendant’s owner was a woman closely related to a group of hunter-gatherers who resided in a Siberian region located east of the cave site, near the foothills of Russia’s Altai Mountains.
The researchers aren’t certain if the woman made the pendant or simply wore it.
The necklace, meanwhile, is the first prehistoric artifact linked by genetic sleuthing to a specific person.
They explained that the new method could be used to extract ancient DNA from other archaic tools and personal adornments. It could also provide insights into the social roles and division of labor between genders in prehistoric times, and even help determine if an object was crafted by our own species.
Denisova Cave was once home to Denisovans, Neanderthals, and Homo sapiens. Over time, the cave has produced significant discoveries, such as the earliest known Denisovan remains and a range of tools and artifacts.
“I find these objects made in the deep past extremely fascinating since they allow us to open a small window to travel back and have a glance into these people’s lives,” said lead author Elena Essel.