The uninterrupted stretch of land from the Pacific in the east to the Atlantic in the west, means
that the boundary between Asia and Europe is a somewhat vague concept. In reality, Europe is but
the western peninsula of the much larger land mass of Asia.
So, for my ancestor, Ice Age living was harsh. To keep warm in the cold climate, he wrapped himself
in animal skin. He also chose to take shelter in the warmth of caves, staying near the mouth of the
cave where it would be lighter for better vision. Where no caves could be found, he would build
temporary shelters from branches, leaves, and animal skins.
As his clan were hunter-gatherers, he found food by hunting and fishing. He also gathered edible plants, fruit, and collected eggs from bird nests. And a single kill of a woolly mammoth by the clan was a big plus. It could be their food for months.
What’s more, when my ancestor arrived in Asia, he found that other archaic humans had long been
living there. These archaic humans of various species included Neanderthals and Denisovans among
them. Not unexpectedly, a resulting continuity occurred between the modern and archaic humans.
In other words, Neanderthal and Denisovans DNA markers have been found present in early modern Asian
As it happens, my personal DNA includes Neanderthal presence albeit minute. Still, I find it appropriate to include something about these early archaic humans in this narrative.
Jon Mooallem best describes these archaic humans: “Neanderthals buried their dead. They made jewelry
and specialized tools. They made ocher and other pigments, perhaps to paint their faces or bodies —
evidence of a “symbolically mediated worldview,” as archaeologists call it. Their tracheal anatomy
suggests that they were capable of language and probably had high-pitched, raspy voices, like Julia
Child. They manufactured glue from birch bark, which required heating the bark to at least 644 degrees
Fahrenheit — a feat scientists find difficult to duplicate without a ceramic container.
And while Neanderthals were once presumed to be crude scavengers, we now know they exploited the different terrains on which they lived. They took down dangerous game, including an extinct species of rhinoceros. Some ate seals and other marine mammals. Some ate shellfish. Some ate chamomile. (They had regional cuisines.) They used toothpicks...maybe none of this pounds particularly impressive. But it’s what our human ancestors were capable of back then too… there might have been cases of Neanderthals and modern humans living alongside each other, intermeshed, for centuries, and...when they happened to bump into one another, occasionally had sex.”1
For all we know, Asians interbred with some other group of humans, such as Denisovans that had interbred with Neanderthals and carried much of their DNA.
The Denisovans are a distinct branch of the Homo family tree, whose members mated with both Neanderthals and modern humans during the past 100,000 years. It is believed Denisovans have roamed vast expanses of Asia with tools as sophisticated as those made by modern humans at the time. Denisovans in East Asia were an archaic hominin species that lived 40,000 ybp. Denisovian genes are usually found in modern East Asian populations and the Oceanic islands. Denisovans interbred with early modern humans in Southeast Asia, particularly among the modern residents of the Pacific islands, such as the Philippines and New Guinea. "…as a result of ancient interbreeding, people living today on islands of Southeast Asia and Oceania have genomes with up to 6 percent Denisovan DNA."2
In any case, researchers found a large duplicated segment of DNA from the extinct Denisovans in the islands of the South Pacific. This suggests there was a period of intense interbreeding between the Denisovans and modern humans around 40,000 years ago.3 Moreover, Denisovans were apparently especially adapted for living in high mountain elevations. They, like Tibetans possess a unique gene that permits this. The ancestors of Tibetans must have inherited this vital gene from Denisovans as one aspect of their DNA differs from any other living humans and almost identical to Denisovans.
Finding support for this assertion, researchers found a large duplicated segment of DNA from the extinct Denisovans in the islands of the South Pacific. This suggests there was a period of intense interbreeding between the Denisovans and modern humans around 40,000 years ago. Moreover, Denisovans were apparently especially adapted for living in high mountain elevations. They, like Tibetans possess a unique gene that permits this. The ancestors of Tibetans must have inherited this vital gene from Denisovans as one aspect of their DNA differs from any other living humans and almost identical to Denisovans.