Ancestral Milieu and Hominid Heredity

A Work In Progress by Herbert Holeman, PhD.

Draft Workpaper Posted.

For discussion purposes, my DNA tests and findings are used as examples.

• My ancestors' Asian migratory routes were expanded by the existence of the continent of Sundaland and the Beringia Land Bridge, which allowed my maternal ancestor to migrate from Asia into the Americas.

• My genetic ancestors interacted with other ancient hominids, and I share traces in my DNA of 1.4% Neanderthal and 1.8% Denisovan.

• Genetic flow from 40,000 years old Tianyuan Man to present day East Asian Han and Ami lineages as well as to the Americas is reflective of my present genetic composition.


Ancient DNA enables me to fill in in my ancestral past with data rather than inference, and it does this through identifying haplogroup genetic markers. As explained by the service provider, 23andMe, blog "Each haplogroup describes individual branches – or closely related groups of branches – on the genetic family tree of all humans. All members of a haplogroup trace their ancestry back to a single individual." So, each letter and number within my haplogroup corresponds to a set of defining mutations in my mitochondrial DNA (mother-line) or my Y chromosome (father-line). In essence, each genetic marker relates to a time period when my genetic ancestor's haplogroup branched off into a distinct ancestral line, such as shown in Figure 4.

Figure 4
Y Chromosome
genetic markers

For me, it reveals my earliest ancestors ~30,000 years ago lived in a glacial environment with thick year-round ice sheets, frigid climate, and dwindling hunting and foraging spaces. Wrapped in animal skin to keep warm in the cold environment, they sought shelter in the warmth of caves and stayed near the cave's mouth which would be lighter for better vision. Where no caves existed, they built temporary shelters from branches, leaves, and animal skins.


They made crude tools and weapons from stone and bone, stone axes, and carved wooden spears for hunting and fishing, which they cooked over a fire as hunters and gatherers. They also gathered edible plants, fruit, and collected eggs from bird nests. A single kill of a woolly mammoth would provide a clan with food for months.


With lower ice-age sea levels, Sundaland's then-existing landmass opened up corridors into Southeast Asia, now known as Taiwan, the Philippines, Malaysia, and Indonesia.

Figure 5
Continent of Sundaland

Arguably, my Stone Age genetic ancestors lived among the first people in Asia to leave behind works of art. They used combinations of minerals, ochres, burned bone meal, and charcoal mixed into water, blood, animal fats, and tree saps to fetch humans, animals, and signs. They also carved small figurines from stones, clay, bones, and antlers.

Hominid Heredity

Both my maternal and paternal haplogroup ancestors date back to living in China when Tianyuan Man existed ~40,000 years ago. A distant cousin, of a founding population that gave rise to present-day Asians, and closely related to people living in China, Japan, the Koreas, and Southeast Asia. Moreover, his genetic sequence makes him not only an early ancestor of today’s Asians, but of Native Americans as well.

Tianyuan Man's genetic similarity to some South Americans, suggests early Asian population structure of shared DNA between ancient and present-day East-Southeast Asians and ancient and present-day Native Americans. Paleogeneticist Erik Trinkaus concludes, "populations moved around a lot and intermixed."

For example, the genetic flow from Tianyuan Man to present-day East Asian Han and Ami lineages as well as to the Americas reflects my present genetic composition. To quote from a review of the study in Current Biology, the "Tianyuan individual is related to an ancestral group that contributed to all more recent populations with Asian ancestry." While ancient, Tianyuan Man "has only traces of Neandertal DNA and none detectable from another type of extinct human known as a Denisovan. Instead, he was a full-fledged member of our species, Homo sapiens, and a distant relative of people who today live in East Asia and South America."

Figure 6
Genetic Similarities of Tianyuan Man
Tianyuan Man

Like the Tianyuan Man, Melinda A. Yang explains other early ancestors of Asians and Native Americans existed as recent as 8,000 to 4,000 year ago. They include the Southeast Asian hunter-gatherers from Laos and Malaysia associated with the Hòabìnhian culture who have a different lineage than the Tianyuan Man. Yang suggests genetically distinct populations occupied Asia in the ancient past, yet no humans today share the same genetic makeup as either Hòabìnhians or the Tianyuan Man, in both East and Southeast Asia.

Figure 7
Asian Ancient Hominids
Ancien hominids map

Among the other hominid presence in the ancient populations of the islands of Southeast Asia (ISEA) are the Densisovans and Homo floresiensis. From such skeleton remains of these prehistoric Asians, researchers are studying cultural patterns, lifestyles, and individual mobility.

For over a million years ago, ISEA has been a significant passageway for human and hominid migrations, Hominid presence exists in several ancient remains of Homo sapiens in ISEA include finds in Luzon dated 66,700 years ago and in Malaysia dated some 40,000 years ago. The presence of ancient DNA in the admixture of modern humans reveals is evidenced by the presence of ancient DNA in my genome of 1.4% Neanderthal and 1.8% Denisovan.

Figure 8
Neanderthal-Denisovan Hominids

Neandertal-Denisovan image

To that point, early on, biologist Colin Groves proposed different species of humans lived in cohabitation. And, the fact is, Neanderthals and other humanids, such as the Denisovans, had long interbred with Asians as noted in this video. Denisovans wandered Asia for hundreds of thousands of years. They remained in existence as recently as the time of my ancestors. Yet, the archaic like anatomy of over a million years ago Red Deer Cave dwellers, lived as recent as ~11,000 years ago in the Hunan area, and are thought to have possibly mated with modern humans and Denisovans.

"Humans are more closely related to Neanderthals and Denisovans than to any living primate, and some 40% of the Neanderthal genome can still be found spread throughout living humans."

Denisovan genes remain in modern East Asian populations and the Oceanic islands. Records show Denisovans interbred with early modern humans in Southeast Asia, particularly among the present-day population of the Philippines. Mike Luoma points out, "As a result of ancient interbreeding, people living today on islands of Southeast Asia and Oceania have genomes with up to 6 percent. Denisovan DNA." Yet, it is relatively undetected elsewhere in the world.

Clare Wilson reports, "Our species may have been interbreeding with Denisovans as recently as 15,000 years ago." A direct descendant has been uncovered of two different early humans groups with the now proven existence of humans with a Neanderthal mother and a Denisovan father. This video depicts other hominids living alongside Neanderthals and Denisovans in Southeast Asia

A research team led by David Reich discovered at least three significant waves of human migration into South Asia over the past 50,000 years. During that time, the anatomically modern hunter-gatherers in Southeast Asia interacted with the ancient human Homo erectus, Homo floresiensis, and Denisovan " populations.

Besides Homo floresiensis in Flores, Indonesia, other hominids lived in the area as well, such as in present-day Luzon in the Philippines (Homo luzonensis). Evidence reveals Hoabinhian hunter -gatherers occupied southeast Asia until about 4000 years ago. Both Hoabinhian hunter-gatherers and East Asian farmers contributed to current Southeast Asian diversity.

The National Geographic report of a study concludes that Denisovans co-existed and mixed with modern humans in Southeast Asia as recently as 15,000 years ago. The study's co-author, Murray Cox, says of the Philippines, Malaysia, etc. "Suddenly, it's kind of crystalized that the center of diversity for archaic populations is in Islands Southeast Asia."

Finding Homo luzonensis

Copyright © 2018 Herbert P. Holeman, Ph.D. All Rights Reserved.