Denisova Cave in the Altai Mountains, Siberia Photo: By Xenochka - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0

AAA talk: Denisovans, Modern Humans and Neanderthals

On Tuesday, May 7, the Algarve Archaeological Association (AAA) will present two lectures, in English, by Pedro Horta. Entitled ‘Denisovans, Modern Humans and Neanderthals: what we know so far’, the first lecture will be at 2.30pm at the Museu do Traje, São Brás, the second at 6pm at the Convento de São José, Lagoa.

Pedro Horta, from the University of the Algarve (UAlg), will be presenting his research into what is known so far about Denisovans, Modern Humans and Neanderthals. The last decade of research in Palaeolithic archaeology has deeply changed what was known about our origins and ancestry. Humans as a species (Homo Sapiens) were thought to have appeared in Africa c200,000 years ago, an idea reinforced by the Omo Kibish skull from Ethiopia (c195,000 years old) and other finds from Herto (Ethiopa), and Skhul and Qafzeh in Israel. However, the finds from Jebel Irhoud, Morocco have pushed that date back by another 100,000 years, placing the emergence of modern humans as early as 300,000 years ago (Hublin et al, 2017).

During this time, Western Eurasia was occupied by Neanderthals for c400,000 years. They lived and thrived here until the arrival of modern humans in Europe c45,000-40,000 years ago. Genetic data shows that modern humans separated from Neanderthals between 400,000 and 700,000 years ago, and there is evidence for interbreeding between the two species in the last 50,000 years.

Neanderthals were previously thought to have expanded up to the Far East, but recent evidence of a new species (Denisovans) has emerged in Denisova Cave in the Altai Mountains, Siberia. This species seems to have separated from humans and Neanderthals c700,000 years ago.

This lecture aims to explore the archaeological evidence for the interbreeding of these species by looking at the most current data available. Pedro Horta will explore their differences and similarities and their contact leading up to the extinction of both Neanderthals and Denisovans and their incorporation into the modern human DNA sequence.

Pedro Horta is a Palaeolithic archaeologist interested in the evolution of hominin adaptation and the stone tool industries of prehistoric and modern humans. He is a PhD student and Research Fellow at ICArEHB (UAlg), where he completed his BA and MA. He has excavated a number of Palaeolithic sites in Europe and North Africa and is currently involved with projects in Southern Portugal (Vale Boi and Gruta da Companheira) and Bulgaria (Bacho Kiro).

Non-members are welcome to attend AAA lectures for a €5 admission fee, with all money raised by the AAA being used for archaeological grants and speakers.
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Denisova Cave in the Altai Mountains, Siberia
Photo: By Xenochka – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0