An innovative molecular fingerprinting technique has allowed British scientists to identify the bone of a Neanderthal from about 2,000 small bone fragments. Removed from an archeological dig in Russia, the bone is the first ever discovered to belong to an extinct human ancestor, and it was uncovered with the help of a technology known as Zooarchaeology by Mass Spectrometry. Researchers from around the world developed the technique, ZooMS, to identify and classify collagen peptide sequences from the bone fragments of several species, and then they compared the data with sequences of known animals.
Among the bones, researchers discovered one human fingerprint, which was then analyzed by scientists who found that its owner was a Neanderthal, according to the genome of its mitochondria. The well-preserved nature of the bones in the cold Russian cave where they were discovered is conducive to gene sequencing and carbon dating, but the real breakthrough was the ZooMS technology used on the fingerprint. With developments like these, archaeologists are one step closer to identifying human remains and understanding the connections between our ancestors and us.