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On the Shoulders of Giants, Our Denisovan Ancestors

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In 2010, the traditional theory of who we are and where we came from got knocked on its head. It was an exciting year. It was an exasperating year. It was a frustrating year. And it was a breathtaking time, all at once. But it was only the beginning. There is a common saying in scientific circles that ‘uncommon claims demand uncommon proof’. So, when a brand new human species that no one knew about was discovered, people awaited some pretty serious evidence.

Spread and Evolution of Denisovans (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Modern Skepticism Revisited

I have a confession to make. I was no different than anyone else. I was skeptical. Shortly after this time I was just beginning to do research for a book which would later turn out to be called Ancient Gods: Lost Histories, Hidden Truths and the Conspiracy of Silence. Reading a book that one has published some years ago, is like stepping into a time capsule. I like to think I am pretty open-minded and receptive to new research, but when I read what I wrote back then it makes me shudder. In a passage fairly dripping with disdain I wrote these words:

“In March of 2010 an announcement about a discovery of a new human species from Siberia called Denisovan Hominin took the scientific community by storm. These ancient folks lived about 41,000 years ago and were contemporaries with both Neanderthals and so-called ‘modern’ humans. As a matter of fact, bones from all three species were discovered in the same cave. Scientists were able to tease out some mitochondrial DNA samples and determined that the new species shared a common ancestor with Neanderthals and may have interbred with ancestors of modern humans. As a matter of fact, between three to five per cent of Aboriginal Australians also carried their DNA and there is evidence that as long as 400,000 years ago, Denisovans were mating with Homo Heidelbergensis all the way over in Spain at a time when only Neanderthals were thought to have lived there.

Finger Phalanx (replica) discovered in Denisova Cave in 2008, Museum of Natural Sciences in Brussels, Belgium. (Thilo Parg / CC BY-SA 3.0)

Finger Phalanx (replica) discovered in Denisova Cave in 2008, Museum of Natural Sciences in Brussels, Belgium. (Thilo Parg / CC BY-SA 3.0)

The world of anthropology was thrilled and magazines galore carried the news. But how much evidence had archaeologists uncovered to deduce this earth-shaking find? One finger bone!

Let us not disparage the science of anthropological DNA studies.


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Jim Willis is author of nine books on religion and spirituality, he has been an ordained minister for over forty years while working part-time as a carpenter, the host of his own drive-time radio show, an arts council director and adjunct college professor in the fields of World Religions and Instrumental Music. He is author of Supernatural Gods: Spiritual Mysteries, Psychic Experiences, and Scientific Truths and Ancient Gods: Lost Histories, Hidden Truths, and the Conspiracy of Silence

Top Image: Bogfoot (ginettigino / Adobe Stock)

By  Jim Willis

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After graduating from the Eastman School of Music, Jim Willis became a high school band and orchestra teacher during the week, a symphony trombonist on the weekends, a jazz musician at night and a choral conductor on Sunday mornings. ... Read More

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