Researchers Discover New Path to the Past
Make no bones about it. For the first time, scientists have recovered ancient human DNA without needing to analyze bones or teeth, thereby opening up new possibilities for probing prehistory. By analyzing sediment in Ice Age caves where our extinct evolutionary cousins would have lived, researchers identified DNA from both Neanderthals and Denisovans. The technique, which involves sequencing the genomes of mitochondria within the dirt, was first used on plants and animals in 2003 — but this marks the first time it has successfully been used to identify hominid DNA.