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Archaeology Magazine

A publication of the Archaeological Institute of America

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Neanderthals and Humans Interbred Far Early Than Thought

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Altai Neanderthal Toebone COLD SPRING HARBOR, NEW YORK—A new genetic study suggests that Neanderthals and modern humans interbred well before scientists have previously supposed. Since 2010, DNA studies have consistently shown that humans and Neanderthals must have interbred around 47,000-65,000 years ago, when modern humans are known to have emigrated from Africa. But recent sequencing of the DNA of the so-called “Altai Neanderthal," using a tiny toe bone fragment unearthed in a cave in Siberia's Altai mountains, shows its ancestors also interbred with modern humans who left Africa tens of thousands of years before the famous "Out of Africa" migration dating to around 60,000 years ago. "The signal we're seeing in the Altai Neanderthal probably comes from an interbreeding event that occurred...a little more than 100,000 years ago," said Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory geneticist Adam Siepel in a press release. This group of modern humans probably broke off from other human populations around 200,000 years ago, and went extinct sometime after interbreeding with Neanderthals. To read more about Neanderthals, go to "Should We Clone Neanderthals?"

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