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Mitochondrial dna dating

Second, the Sima de los Huesos humans may be related to the ancestors of both Neanderthals and Denisovans.

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They serve as batteries, powering various functions of the cell and the organism as a whole.Pit of Bones To discover more about human origins, researchers investigated a human thighbone unearthed in the Sima de los Huesos, or "Pit of Bones," an underground cave in the Atapuerca Mountains in northern Spain. "This is the oldest human genetic material that has been sequenced so far," said study lead author Matthias Meyer, a molecular biologist at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany."This is really a breakthrough — we'd never have thought it possible two years ago that we could study the genetics of human fossils of this age." Until now, the previous oldest human DNA known came from a 100,000-year-old Neanderthal from a cave in Belgium.The Sima de los Huesos is about 100 feet (30 meters) below the surface at the bottom of a 42-foot (13-meter) vertical shaft.Archaeologists suggest the bones may have been washed down it by rain or floods, or that the bones were even intentionally buried there.This Pit of Bones has yielded fossils of at least 28 individuals, the world's largest collection of human fossils dating from the Middle Pleistocene, about 125,000 to 780,000 years ago.

"This is a very interesting time range," Meyer told Live Science.

Third, the humans found at the Sima de los Huesos may be a lineage distinct from both Neanderthals and Denisovans that later perhaps contributed mitochondrial DNA to Denisovans.

However, this suggests this group was somehow both distinct from Neanderthals but also independently evolved several Neanderthal-like skeletal features.

These new findings could shed light on a mysterious extinct branch of humanity known as Denisovans, who were close relatives of Neanderthals, scientists added.

Although modern humans are the only surviving human lineage, others once strode the Earth.

[See Images of Excavation & Mysterious ' New Hominid'] Genetic analysis suggests the ancestors of modern humans interbred with both these extinct lineages.