Proteins are getting older!

One of the most exciting aspects of this work, at least for someone who was previously limited by the radiocarbon limit, is the wider applicability of ZooMS to material covering not only the last 50,000 years but as many as a few million years. Recent publications have pushed the survival of animal proteins in tooth enamel to 1.77 Ma and 1.9 Ma– an exciting pushback in time! A nice write-up with comments from various researchers, including one of us, can be found here.

As for FINDER, we have been hard at work in 2019 both at the lab and travelling to places across Europe, Asia and Australia to access “new” old collections. We’ve hit 10,000 bones from Denisova Cave and analysed material from another 6 sites from northern Asia.

The oldest, protein- and DNA-containing human fossils from Denisova Cave can now be placed, comfortably, to ~200 ka  and possibly beyond this, and we will be reporting more on this as new data come out. For now, here are two pics of the student team (Samantha Brown and Naihui Wang) working at the labs in Jena.