According to a study released this week, archaeologists unearthed the bones of a 7,200-year-old skeleton from a female hunter-gatherer in Indonesia that has a “unique human lineage” never found anywhere else in the world.
The remarkably preserved fossil, which belonged to a girl called Bessé and was buried in the fetal position inside Leang Panninge, a limestone cave in South Sulawesi, was discovered in the fetal position.
The structure was discovered with equipment used for hunting and harvesting fruits in this Quaternary-era location.
The finding, which was reported in the journal Nature, is thought to be the first of its kind in Wallacea, a huge network of islands and atolls in the seas between mainland Asia and Australia.
Bessé is referred to by the researchers as a “genetic fossil.” According to Brumm, genetic sequencing revealed she had a unique ancestral background not shared by anybody alive now or any known individuals from the distant past.
Approximately half of Bessé’s genetic composition is comparable to that of contemporary Indigenous Australians, as well as individuals from New Guinea and the Western Pacific islands.
Wallacea was the site of the first ancient human DNA extraction.
The narrative, unfortunately, remained unfinished. To learn more, a team decided to conduct more digs in the cave and gather additional materials. These enabled Bessé’s age to be limited to between 7,200 and 7,300 years. At the same time, the researchers examined his bones, from which they extracted entire DNA.
“It was a significant task since the remains had been extensively deteriorated by the tropical environment,” said lead author Selina Carlhoff of the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History in a statement. indicating that the DNA was extracted from the inner ear bone
Only a few pre-Neolithic remains had previously transmitted DNA across South Asia. As a result, Bessé’s genetic material has a dual significance.
This is not just the first direct genetic marker of the Toalean society, but also the first ancient human DNA found in Wallacea, the region that covers the islands between Borneo and New Guinea.
And this extraordinary performance has led to surprising conclusions regarding the Toaleans’ origins. The young woman’s DNA was found to be comparable to that of Australian Aborigines and current residents of New Guinea and the western Pacific. This includes DNA inherited from Denisovans, Neanderthals’ distant cousins.
This finding supports the theory that these hunter-gatherers were connected to the first humans to discover Wallacea some 65,000 years ago. “They were the first residents of the Sahul, the supercontinent that arose during the Pleistocene when the global level of the seas decreased,” said Griffith University co-leader Professor Adam Brumm.
The Sahul at the time encompassed Australia, Tasmania, and New Guinea, which were linked by land bridges. “These pioneers conducted ocean crossings across the Wallacea to reach the Sahul, but nothing is known about their trips,” he stated in another statement.
An unanticipated ancestor’s signature
Bessé’s DNA, on the other hand, revealed an unexpected ancestral signal, indicating a relationship with an Asian group.
However, experts are only aware of one migration of modern humans from eastern Asia to Wallacea, which occurred some 3,500 years ago, far after the young woman’s period.
The study discovered no link between Bessé’s ancestors and the present residents of Sulawesi, who are primarily descended from Neolithic farmers who came to the region three millennia ago.
Thus, the hunter-gatherer would show a human line never seen previously, and which appears to have vanished 1,500 years ago.
“Bessé’s ancestors did not mix with those of Australian Aborigines and Papuans, suggesting that they would have arrived in the region after the first Sahul settlement – but much before Austronesian expansion,” Prof. Brumm and colleagues said in an essay published on The Conversation website.
This extinct society appears to have had very minimal contact with other ancient societies in Sulawesi and surrounding islands, staying isolated for millennia. There are other results that pose fresh concerns concerning the Toaleans and their origins.
Scientists anticipate that fresh DNA analyses among the Indonesian island’s inhabitants will aid in the discovery of evidence of these hunter-gatherers’ genetic heritage. They also intend to excavate additional areas within the Leang Panninge cave.
“Bessé’s finding and the consequences of his genetic origins demonstrate our limited understanding of our region’s early human history and the number of things remaining to be found there,” Prof. Brumm stated.