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Genomes from dirt

May 2, 2017

Molecular biologists at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology sequenced mitochondrial DNA of Denisovans and Neanderthals. From cave dirt. No visible remains required. Dating the DNA is problematic. Nonetheless, this is the exciting advance of a research method.

The overhyped archaeology news is the announcement that smashed mastodon bones demonstrate hominids in the Americas 130,000 years past. While I frequently point out that “earliest yet discovered” is just a loose upper bound on “earliest,” the evidence in this case is interesting but weak. I’m not going to get excited unless and until there is more.

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