The ancient woman’s genome also revealed that she is a distant relative of present-day Aboriginal Australians and Melanesians, or the Indigenous people on the islands of New Guinea and the western Pacific whose ancestors were the first humans to reach Oceania, the researchers found.
Like the Aboriginal Australians and New Guineans, the woman had a significant proportion of DNA from an archaic human species known as the Denisovans, the researchers found. That’s in sharp contrast with other ancient hunter-gatherers from Southeast Asia, such as in Laos and Malaysia, who do not have much Denisovan ancestry, said study co-leader Cosimo Posth, a professor at the Senckenberg Centre for Human Evolution and Palaeoenvironment at the University of Tübingen in Germany.
These genetic discoveries suggest that Indonesia and the surrounding islands, an area known as Wallacea, was “indeed the meeting point for the major admixture [mating] event between Denisovans and modern humans on their initial journey to Oceania,” Posth told Live Science in an email.
Researchers have long been interested in Wallacea. It’s estimated that ancient humans traveled through Wallacea at least 50,000 years ago (possibly even before 65,000 years ago) before they reached Australia and its surrounding islands.
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