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New species of human discovered on Indonesian island, ancient DNA reveals

Friday, August 27th 2021, 4:41 pm - The skeletal remains were found inside a cave on an Indonesian island.

Bones discovered in Sulawesi, an island in Indonesia, are over 7,000-years-old and a study published in Nature reports that they belong to an unknown group of humans that scientists have never seen before.

"We have discovered the first ancient human DNA in the island region between Asia and Australia, known as 'Wallacea', providing new insight into the genetic diversity and population history of early modern humans in this little understood part of the world," study co-author Adam Brumm said in an interview with CNN.

University of Hasanuddin Scientists analyzed data extracted from the female’s skull. (University of Hasanuddin/CNN)

The study says that modern humans crossed through Wallacea as they migrated from Eurasia to Australia over 50,000 years ago, but the method of travel remains unknown.

"They must have done so using relatively sophisticated watercraft of some kind, as there were no land bridges between the islands, even during the glacial peaks of the last ice age, when global sea levels were up to 140 meters (459 feet) lower than they are today," Brumm said to CNN.

The bones belong to a 17 or 18-year-old female who was buried at a limestone cave on the island. Previous discoveries of tools and cave paintings found in Sulawesi indicate that humans were living there at least 47,000 years ago, according to a study published in Science Advances.

Leang Panninge Research Team The researchers discovered the skeletal remains in the Leang Panninge cave. (Leang Panninge Research Team/CNN)

Unlike the frigid Arctic where permafrost can preserve human and animal remains for tens of thousands of years, the warm, moist tropical climate in Southeast Asia allows for a more rapid decay of living matter. While relatively little is known about early human populations in this region compared to other areas on Earth, this is not the first time that a new human species has been discovered in Indonesia.

In 2019 a new species of human called Homo luzonensis was confirmed after ancient bones and teeth were found in the Philippine's Callao Cave on the island of Luzon. These bones belonged to two adults and one child who lived between 50,000 and 67,000 years ago.

With files from CNN

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