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About The Tam Pà Ling Cave


Tam Pà Ling Cave in the Annamite Mountain range in Northern Laos has recently provided groundbreaking insights into the timeline of human arrival in Southeast Asia. Tam Pà Ling Cave features a sloping structure formed by periodic slope wash deposition.


Facts for Prelims

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Key Findings in Tam Pa Ling Cave
  2. Dating Methods Used in Tam Pà Ling Cave
  3. Denisovans

Key Findings in Tam Pa Ling Cave:

  • Human Habitation: The excavation at Tam Pà Ling Cave provided evidence suggesting that humans have inhabited the area for approximately 56,000 years. This challenges previous assumptions about the timeline of human presence in the region.
  • Sediment Accumulation: Contrary to earlier beliefs, it was found that the sediment layers at the site accumulated steadily over an estimated period of 86,000 years, rather than through rapid sedimentation events.
  • Arrival of Modern Humans: The discovery of a leg bone fragment, found at a depth of seven meters, indicates that modern humans arrived in the region between 86,000 and 68,000 years ago. This finding pushes back the timing of Homo sapiens’ arrival in Southeast Asia.
  • Denisovan Presence: An intriguing discovery in the cave was a tooth estimated to be 150,000 years old. This finding links the cave to the presence of Denisovans, an extinct human relative, adding to our understanding of the human evolutionary history in the region.

Dating Methods Used in Tam Pà Ling Cave:

  • Luminescence Dating: This method relies on light-sensitive signals in buried sediment and uses minerals like quartz and feldspar to determine the age of the sediments.
    • Quartz: Used for dating the younger levels of sediment, typically found in the top three meters.
    • Feldspar: Used for dating the lower levels of sediment, specifically in the range of four to seven meters, where quartz may be limited.
  • Uranium Series Dating: This dating method involves measuring the uranium and its decay products within a tooth or other samples to estimate their age.
  • Electron Spin Resonance (ESR) Dating: ESR dating measures the number of electrons in tooth enamel. This technique provides a numerical age for the fossil based on the accumulation of trapped electrons over time.
  • Sediment Dating: This method determines the age of the sediment layers themselves, which provides a framework for understanding the fossils found within. It relies on various techniques such as luminescence dating, uranium series dating, and micromorphology analysis. Micromorphology analysis examines sediments under a microscope to establish the integrity of the layers.


  • Denisovans are a distinct lineage of humans known primarily from remains found in Siberia and Tibet.
  • They existed hundreds of thousands of years ago and coexisted with Neanderthals in certain regions.
  • Through interbreeding with early modern humans, traces of Denisovan genetic material have been passed down to present-day human populations.
  • The identification of Denisovans was made after the discovery of fragmentary finger bone and teeth, dating back approximately 40,000 years, in the Denisovan Cave located in Siberia.
  • These fossil findings have provided valuable insights into the existence and genetic contribution of Denisovans, expanding our understanding of human evolutionary history.

-Source: The Hindu

December 2023