The skull you were looking at was shattered when it was discovered. After much work, the physical remains were assembled again for this image. But they are the smallest pieces we care about today. It’s the DNA of this 45,000-year-old skull provided it’s in the headlines this week.
The oldest modern human genome
With permission from this skull from the Zlatý kůň cave in Czechia (near Prague), we now have some very ancient DNA. With what has been analyzed in this skull, humanity has the new record holder for the oldest modern human genome reconstructed so far.
This skull belonged to a human who is also the oldest known modern human to date, discovered in Europe. According to results published in a research paper in Nature Ecology & Evolution, fragments of Neanderthal DNA indicate that they are more than 45,000 years old.
Researchers refer to the skull as Zlatý kůň (the golden horse in Czech), as the name for the original organism that used the said skull. This name is also given to the cave in which the skull was found.
Also of interest in the reconstruction of the visible parts of the skull was the cow DNA. This isn’t the first time this skull has been studied – a previous study of the skull was less than 10,000 years old – or more. The authors of this study went on to define the cow’s DNA as being different from modern laboratory contaminants.
Collectively, these results indicate that the skull of Zlato Ku was preserved with a cattle glue that penetrated the stony, serial bone, the study says. In other words – when the skull was first discovered in modern times, researchers put it back together, fixing the aforementioned pieces with glue made from material taken from cows. Glue was more evil back then than it is now.
Learn more about this skull
To learn more about this skull and the DNA extracted from it, take a peek at the research paper “Genome sequencing of a modern human skull over 45,000 years old from Zlatý kůň in the Czech Republic”. This paper was written by Kay Brover, Cosimo Post, She Yu, Alexander Stossel, Maria A. Spiro, Thibaut Davies, Marco Mattunay, Erika Repicini, Thomas Higham, Peter Veliminsky, Yaroslav Brick and Johannes Krause. You can find this paper with the code DOI: 10.1038 / s41559-021-01443-x as of April 7, 2021 in Nature Ecology & Evolution.