It’s been said that if a machine ever gains awareness, it will be not due to our careful programming, but to an unforeseeable anomaly. Perhaps the first anomaly occurred back in the distant primordial fog of human evolution. We may never know. But a new analysis of ancient genomes suggests that different branches of the human family tree interbred multiple times, and that some humans carry DNA from an archaic, unknown ancestor.
A third extinct “ghost species” beyond Neanderthals and Denisovans that interbred with anatomically modern humans has been unveiled by researchers from Spain and Estonia using artificial intelligence. This third extinct species is likely a hybrid or close relative of Neanderthals and Denisovans that crossbred with “Out of Africa” modern humans in Asia.
In August 2018, researchers discovered a bone fragment from a girl whose mother was a Neanderthal and father was a Denisovan in a remote cave in Siberia. In the study, researchers estimate that this hybrid child lived between 79,100 and 118,100 years ago. Modern humans, scientists discovered, share a common ancestor with Denisovans and Neanderthals that lived roughly 600,000 years ago. Later — approximately 390,00 years ago — the Neanderthal and Denisovan lineages split.