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Member since: Tue Jul 15, 2003, 03:58 PM
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Extinct 'Denisovan' people may have lived on Earth's highest plateau


Humans arrived on the Tibetan Plateau tens of thousands of years earlier than we thought. This raises the possibility that the first humans to cope with the harsh conditions there were not modern humans, but the ancient Denisovans.

The Tibetan Plateau is a tough environment. The average annual temperature is close to 0 įC, and on average itís 4000 metres above sea level so the air is difficult to breathe. Most researchers assumed that humans didnít move onto the Tibetan Plateau until just 12,000 years ago Ė and only occupied it permanently about 3600 years ago.

An archaeological site called Nwya Devu suggests otherwise. The site, which is on the Tibetan Plateau 4600 metres above sea level, has yielded thousands of stone tools, albeit few organic remains.

By using technology that establishes how many years have passed since the soil burying the tools was last exposed, archaeologists estimate that the oldest tools are between 40,000 and 30,000 years old. That means humans first occupied the Tibetan Plateau much earlier than we thought.
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