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Ancient DNA shows the peopling of Southeast Asian islands was surprisingly complex

A young woman who lived on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi as early as around 7,300 years ago had a surprisingly ancient East Asian pedigree, mixed with a dash of Denisovan ancestry, a new study finds.

Researchers excavated the woman’s partial skeleton from South Sulawesi’s Leang Panninge cave. An analysis of her DNA shows that she was a descendent of mainly East Asian Homo sapiens who probably reached the tropical outpost at least 50,000 years ago, researchers report August 25 in Nature.

The ancient Sulawesi woman’s DNA “provides the first indication that an Asian ancestry was present in Wallacea long before the Austronesian expansion,” says archaeologist Adam Brumm of Griffith University in Brisbane, Australia.

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