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Archaeology Magazine

A publication of the Archaeological Institute of America

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New Thoughts on Rare Teeth

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Denisovan three rootsNEW YORK, NEW YORK—Cosmos reports that a 160,000-year-old molar discovered in a cave on the Tibetan Plateau in 1980 may be evidence of a link between Denisovans and the ancestors of modern Asians. The molar features a third root, which is found in nearly one-third of modern Asian populations, but in fewer than four percent of modern Europeans and Africans. The anomaly has also been found in up to 40 percent of ancient remains recovered in northern China and islands in the Bering Sea that were once part of the land bridge connecting Asia and North America. Shara Bailey of New York University said the trait, which can occur through mutation, may have been passed to archaic humans in Asia by Denisovans. It had been previously believed that the third root evolved in Homo sapiens after they migrated out of Africa. For more on teeth in the archaeological record, go to “The Case of the Missing Incisors.”

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