Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Archaeological Evidence: Neandertals and Modern Humans Interacted and Interbred

The Newsroom at the University of Colorado has released news of a study that links the archaeological evidence in Europe with Neandertal/early modern human interaction and, probably, interbreeding. They write:
Anthropologists using computer modeling to determine how early hominins adapted to climate change during the last Ice Age, have gained new insights into why Neanderthals disappeared as a distinct population some 30,000 years ago.

The scientists believe Neanderthals interbred with more numerous modern humans until they ceased to exist as their own population.

This is called "gene swamping" and is not uncommon. The authors further argue:
“Neanderthal genes make up between one and four percent of today’s human genome, especially in those of European descent. Their legacy lives on in our genome and possibly in our cultural knowledge.”
Modern humans begin to show up in Europe during the Early Würm/Late Würm glaciation, between 35 and 40 thousand years B.P. A good representation of these hominins are those from the cave of Mladeč, which, while being classified as modern humans, have characteristics reminiscent of Neandertals. Even the later hominins such as those from the central European site of Dolní Vĕstonice, show archaic characteristics such as expanded occipital buns (a bulge at the rear of the vault). This all makes sense within the context of hybridization between the two groups of people. Fred Smith was right.

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