DNA from early European jaw bone shows recent Neanderthal ancestor
In 2002, archaeologists discovered the jawbone of a human who lived in Europe about 40,000 years ago. Geneticists have now analysed ancient DNA from that jawbone and learned that it belonged to a modern human whose recent ancestors included Neanderthals.
Neanderthals lived in Europe until about 35,000 years ago, disappearing at the same time modern humans were spreading across the continent. The new study, co-led by Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) investigator David Reich at Harvard Medical School and Svante Pääbo at the Max Planck Institute in Germany, provides the first genetic evidence that humans interbred with Neanderthals in Europe. The scientists reported their findings in the June 22, 2015,
issue of the journal Nature. “ e know that before , years ago, the only humans in urope were Neanderthals. After , years ago, the only humans in Europe were modern
humans. This is a dramatic transition,” Reich says. There is archaeological evidence that modern humans interacted with Neanderthals during the time that they both lived in Europe: changes in tool making technology, burial rituals and body decoration imply a cultural exchange between the groups. “But we have
very few skeletons from this period,” Reich points out. The physical features of the jawbone were predominantly those of modern humans, but some Neanderthal traits were also apparent and the anthropologists proposed that the bone might have belonged to someone descended from both groups.
“It’s an incredibly unexpected thing,” Reich says. “In the last few years, we’ve documented interbreeding between Neanderthals and modern humans, but we never thought we'd be so lucky to find someone so close to that event.”
A taken from a , -year-old modern human awbone from the ca e e tera cu ase in omania reveals that this man had a Neanderthal ancestor as recently as four to six generations back.