Researchers have found the remains of a teenager who died 7,200 years ago, revealing a group of humans previously unknown to science

Rests of a Toalean teenage in the Leang Panninge cave, Sulawesi (Indonesia). University of Hasanuddin
Researchers analysed 7,200-year-old DNA to discover early human ancestors in Southeast Asia.

These findings shed light onto the mysterious disappearance of 1,500-year-old Toaleans.

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A 17- to-18-year-old girl died around 7,200 years ago. Her remains have revealed a prehistoric lineage that was previously unknown to science.

Named after the cave in Sulawesi (Indonesi), where they were discovered, the Leang Panninge remains are likely to be of a member of the Toalean Culture, an elusive group hunter-gatherers that disappeared around 1,500 years ago.

These findings were published in Nature, a peer-reviewed journal, on Wednesday. They provide insights into the geographic movements of early modern human beings.

The map below shows the Wallacea region. Kim Newman

The mysterious Toaleans

Insider was told by Adam Brumm, an Australian professor of archaeology and author of the study, that the Toalean culture is "enigmatic".

He said that the Toalean culture "seems like it came out of nowhere" and had apparently no or limited contact to other early foraging cultures on the island.

Brumm stated that the Toaleans remained in a small portion of Sulawesi’s southwestern peninsula.

This is a particularly fascinating location for paleontologists, as Sulawesi belongs to the Wallacea region. The Wallacea region is a collection Indonesian islands that first humans used as "stepping stones" between Eurasia, Oceania, as scientists stated in a news release.

Toalean culture left behind intricate arrowheads and tools, but there are very few fossils or workable DNA.

Maros points are stone arrowheads that were used to build the Toalean technocomplex, also known as Maros point, and are typical of the Toalean techcomplex, which was developed by people in the south of Sulawesi. Yinika L Perston

"We can't say who this population was."

Extracting DNA from 7,200-year-old bone bones took a lot of effort, but the authors of the study said that it was well worth it.

They said that the genetic material showed that the teenager had ancestors in Papua New Guinea and Indigenous Australians who arrived in Wallacea around 50,000 years ago.

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Brumm explained to CNN that the general consensus before these findings was that Wallacea was inhabited by Asians around 3,500 years ago.

Excavations at Leang Panninge. Hasanuddin University in Indonesia

However, DNA analysis also showed genes that were not compatible with any known population. This suggests that scientists have discovered a new group of people from Asia, Wallacea, that may have been more ancient than previously believed and that has no descendants today.

"We don't know the identity of this population. It formed a unique profile within this 'genetic fossil,' which was not seen in any other present-day or historical individual," Cosimo Ph, a professor in paleogenetics at Germany’s Eberhard Karls University in Tbingen, said to Insider via email.

They also discovered traces of Denisovan DNA. This is an extinct archaic human group related to the Neanderthals, most often found in Siberia or Tibet. It suggests that they may have traveled further than previously believed.

Posth stated that the Toalean culture did not fare well over time.

"It appears to have been replaced by later human movement and admixture within the region, leaving us asking the question: "What happened to the bearers the Toalean cultural heritage?" He said.

The Leang Panninge cave is located on the southern peninsula, Sulawesi (Indonesia). Leang Panninge Research Project

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