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Thread: Skull from Salkhit, Mongolia

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    Skull from Salkhit, Mongolia

    There was some information on the article in the news thread, I think it is worth to discuss it in a special topic.
    Here is, again information on the article:

    Published: 30 January 2019

    Compound-specific radiocarbon dating and mitochondrial DNA analysis of the Pleistocene hominin from Salkhit Mongolia

    Thibaut Devièse, Diyendo Massilani, Seonbok Yi, Daniel Comeskey, Sarah Nagel, Birgit Nickel, Erika Ribechini, Jungeun Lee, Damdinsuren Tseveendorj, Byambaa Gunchinsuren, Matthias Meyer, Svante Pääbo & Tom Higham

    Nature Communicationsvolume 10, Article number: 274 (2019)

    Abstract

    A skullcap found in the Salkhit Valley in northeast Mongolia is, to our knowledge, the only Pleistocene hominin fossil found in the country. It was initially described as an individual with possible archaic affinities, but its ancestry has been debated since the discovery. Here, we determine the age of the Salkhit skull by compound-specific radiocarbon dating of hydroxyproline to 34,950–33,900 Cal. BP (at 95% probability), placing the Salkhit individual in the Early Upper Paleolithic period. We reconstruct the complete mitochondrial genome (mtDNA) of the specimen. It falls within a group of modern human mtDNAs (haplogroup N) that is widespread in Eurasia today. The results now place the specimen into its proper chronometric and biological context and allow us to begin integrating it with other evidence for the human occupation of this region during the Paleolithic, as well as wider Pleistocene sequences across Eurasia.

    https://www.nature.com/articles/s41467-018-08018-8

    I found a little bit more information on the topic (in Russian)
    http://antropogenez.ru/single-news/article/761/

    The interesting points are the following:
    - the bone looks very archaic even for a Neanderthal and today only Homo Heidelbergensis remains can be called anything somewhat similar;
    - the mt-DNA results showed AMH happlogroup N. But this is a very special branch of N, that has no modern descendants and has splitted from the N root branch 19-28 thousand years before that human (or hominin?) lived.

    The radiocarbon dating, again, shows just 34,950–33,900 calbp, and that is just a few thousand years earlier than Yana RMS, which is about 31ky old.
    The first thing I thought about was that we have an AMH-Denisovian hybrid population that was alive as late as 34,950–33,900 calbp.

    Drobyshevskiy (from MSU, author of the comment in Russian by link) also stated this possibility as well as possibility of a wrong dating or wrong aDNA results (because of a mixture with modern human DNA?).

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    Autosomal analysis of Salkhit would be very informative. I hope it is in the pipeline.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Kristiina View Post
    Autosomal analysis of Salkhit would be very informative. I hope it is in the pipeline.
    I'm afraid it's not. In any case, only Mito data has been deposited in ENA.
    En North alom, de North venom
    En North fum naiz, en North manom

    (Roman de Rou, Wace, 1160-1170)

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    Quote Originally Posted by Kristiina View Post
    Autosomal analysis of Salkhit would be very informative. I hope it is in the pipeline.
    They say it is in the pipeline.
    But what we have is already very interesting.

    It looks like we have the same situation in all the North Eurasia.
    Upper Paleolithic starts when the first AMH come to the region, those first humans mix heavily with local Neanderthals/Denisovians. After some time new waves of AMHs come to the area, and finally everywhere we get to a situation when those pioneers (first AMHs who came to replace other hominids) leave no modern ancestors.

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    Ok, I'll make a bet: this skull is regular Homo Sapiens, with archaic admixture less than 10%.

    Why? Well it postdates both Ust-Ishim and Tianyuan and they both were regular Homo Sapiens and had no more than 5% archaic admixture. Regarding skull shape - well, may be he had some pathology.

    UPD: There are also some human remains found in Irkutsk region of Russia which are potentially olden than Salkhit: https://siberiantimes.com/science/ca...d-middle-east/
    https://www.sciencedirect.com/scienc...40618218310036

    They are now being tested in Germany for DNA.
    Last edited by rozenfeld; 03-04-2019 at 06:55 PM.

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    Interesting bet. It's not like there aren't late divergent / cranially archaic Homo about at that time (Iwo Eleru 11.2 kya in Africa, debate on Flores Hominids). Looks pretty archaic to me (more so than Oase skull at 37-42kya), but I'd love to have seen if any of the serious geometric morphometrics people could squeeze anything out of the partial skulls shape (the analyses out there look pretty crude compared with what Friedline, Gunz, Bastir, Harvati, etc do).

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    Pathology that makes forehead look like one of ancient hominin? And human with this "pathology" survived until adult age.

    Today Mongolia is literally "middle of nowhere", it could happen that genetically distinct populations lived there and in Tianyuan.
    Or again, wrong dating.

    About your update:
    It is not Irkutsk region, it is neighboring Buryatia region. The site is just 300 km from Salkhit, this can be called very close in such a sparsely populated region.
    Would be very nice to have those results, they would be the oldest AMH aDNA ever sequenced if they succeed.

    And I guess those results will put an end to the theories that Denisovians or whoever could create the Upper Paleolithic culture before AMH arrival.
    Last edited by artemv; 03-04-2019 at 11:15 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Eterne View Post
    Interesting bet. It's not like there aren't late divergent / cranially archaic Homo about at that time (Iwo Eleru 11.2 kya in Africa, debate on Flores Hominids). Looks pretty archaic to me (more so than Oase skull at 37-42kya), but I'd love to have seen if any of the serious geometric morphometrics people could squeeze anything out of the partial skulls shape (the analyses out there look pretty crude compared with what Friedline, Gunz, Bastir, Harvati, etc do).
    I quoted Drobyshevskiy's comment, I guess he is such a "serious geometric morphometric" man and posts many texts and videos in Russian both about different groups of modern people and different hominins. He actually wrote "если Салхит на кого и похож, то на Homo heidelbergensis типа Петралоны и Штейнгейма, причём отличается от них скорее в примитивную сторону". My translation is: if there is something close to Slakhit that is Homo heidelbergensis from Petralona cave or from Steinheim, and Salkhit rather looks more archaic comparing to them.
    Looked at the photos myself, Slakhit looks really similar to Steinheim (I am no way a profi here).

    We have new dates for the Flores Hominids, they are now considered to be 50-60 ky old, and the older date makes sense.
    https://www.nature.com/articles/nature17179
    I remember, just about 5-7 years ago last Neanderthals in Europe where dated to as late as 24 thousand years ago, but just recently the dates have been changed, and now looks like they survived only for a few thousand years after to AMHs arrived into Europe.

    For Salkhit I would have no questions if it was lets say just 10 thousand years older.
    Last edited by artemv; 03-04-2019 at 11:18 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by rozenfeld View Post
    Ok, I'll make a bet: this skull is regular Homo Sapiens, with archaic admixture less than 10%.

    Why? Well it postdates both Ust-Ishim and Tianyuan and they both were regular Homo Sapiens and had no more than 5% archaic admixture. Regarding skull shape - well, may be he had some pathology.
    To be fair, all we have of Ust-Ishm is his femur, and Tianyuan's skeletal remains were very fragmentary, I'm not sure how much of his skull was still around. With their genomes sequenced we know that they were overwhelming "modern" human, but I'm not sure if previous morphometric analyses of their remains found them to be particularly archaic looking compared to humans today. If Ust or Tianyuan had a skullcap that looked like Salkhit's but still ended up 97-98% modern human, then I would definitely understand your caution, but we're not really comparing like with like in this instance.

    On a tangential note, I was browsing through Wikipedia's list of hominin fossil remains not too long ago and noticed quite a few Neanderthal specimens from the Middle East and Central Asia that I hadn't previously known about from the tail end of the Middle Paleolithic and into the Upper. I think last year, archaeologists actually discovered even more Neanderthal remains from the famous Shanidar cave in Iraq. I don't have a reference handy, but I swear I've read before in previous papers that the more recently dated Middle Eastern Neanderthals tend to show more "derived" features relative to older specimens. Given the time and place, I have no doubt the change in morphology is due to breeding with modern human people in Southwest Asia between 50,000-100,000 years ago. It would be great if we could sequence the genome of any Neanderthal, Denisovan, or other "archaic" hominin we find from across Eurasia and see if we can find a hybrid archaic/modern human like the Neanderthal/Denisovan hybrid that was announced last year. There's naturally a small, finite number of any hominin remains out there to excavate, geneticists should be as thorough as possible in trying to extract data from any sample they come across, even the most archaic looking ones might be more relevant to contemporary people than we might initially think.

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    Quote Originally Posted by artemv View Post
    They say it is in the pipeline.
    Where does it say this, in the Russian language link (I can't read russian)? Because I don't see it in the English language link...

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