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Webinar Series 2023: All in the (Human) Family: Neanderthals, Denisovans and Us

With Dr. Bence Viola, PhD University of Toronto

Over the last decade, the development of ancient DNA technology allowing us to study the genetics of past populations transformed our understanding of our origins. It be came clear that up until about 40,000 years ago, our species was not alone on this planet, but coexisted with several other human groups such as the Neanderthals, Denisovans and others. These populations interacted, and the genetical traces of these contacts still linger in us today.

This talk discusses some of the recent advances in our understanding of how these groups interacted both biologically and culturally. It will focus on Central Asia, especially the Altai Mountains, where these three populations – early modern humans, Neanderthals, and the enigmatic Denisovans, a group only known from a few fragmentary fossils and their DNA – interacted. By combining ancient DNA, archaeological and morphological data we will look at the dynamics of these populations and explore these contacts.

Dr. Bence ViolaDr. Bence Viola is a paleoanthropologist focusing on the biological and cultural interactions between different hominin groups in the Late Pleistocene. After studying at the universities of Vienna and Bordeaux, he spent four years as a postdoctoral fellow at the Max-Planck-Institute of Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, and is now an Associate Professor at the Department of Anthropology, University of Toronto.

Dr. Viola’s research uses an interdisciplinary approach combining morphological, archaeological and genetic data to better understand how the Neanderthals, their enigmatic Asian cousins, the Denisovans, and the first modern humans interacted. He has led excavations in Central Europe, East Africa and Central Asia, and is currently conducting fieldwork in Sel’ungur cave in Kyrgyzstan and at Grub/Kranawetberg in Austria.

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