Neanderthals in the News

Neanderthal-loveNot Only Do Non-African Humans Have Neanderthal Genes, It Seems That Neanderthals Carry Some Human Genes, But Only From Africans. This Causes A Huge Rethink Of Ancient Human And Neanderthal Migrations.

Some months ago, we posted a blog on Neanderthals, and their legacy. This can be read here. It seems that somewhere around 4% of Caucasian and Asian DNA came from Neanderthals. But Africans do not have this additional DNA. There is only one way to “get” DNA, and that is the usual way—mating. So somewhere, not in Africa, some tens of thousands of years ago, a child was scampering around that was half and half. But what of the proud couple? Because mitochondria is transmitted only through the mothers, and no Neanderthal DNA is found in human mitochondria today, it would have to be the mom that was human. And when did the mating occur? Oh, 55,000 years ago, give or take a few thousand. This was just 10,000 or so years after we left Africa. The Neanderthals had left Africa several hundred thousand years earlier. They had spread throughout Europe and Asia by the time we left.

Make Love, Not War

We joined the Neanderthals 70,000 years ago and coexisted for 30,000 years, but by 40,000 years ago, the Neanderthals were all gone. It has been broadly assumed for a long time that we killed them off. However, the 4% Neanderthal DNA in humans changes all that. And this is just 4% that we can tell is different from Africans. Most human and Neanderthal DNA is virtually identical. The actual proportion could be a lot higher, and likely is. Maybe we didn’t kill them off. Maybe we interbred so much that eventually there was no difference.

The DNA analysis revealed another ancient fact. The Neanderthals weren’t alone. There was another human like people called Denisovans. Some Asians, especially Melanesians and Aboriginal Australians, have around 4% of their DNA too, but not Neanderthals. These Denisovans, who have been incarnated from nothing more that a finger bone and two teeth, apparently represent a branch of Neanderthals that split well before the human exodus from Africa.

How Long Has This Sort Of Thing Been Going On?



If a new people isn’t enough of a complication, a study reported a couple of days ago has thrown a huge monkey wrench into the works. It seems researchers Scientists from the Max Planck Institute have analyzed a bone from a Neanderthal woman, and she had human DNA. Now this doesn’t seem so odd, since humans have Neanderthal DNA. The thing is, though, this woman lived 100,000 years ago, and the DNA is African. Make sense it would be African, since “future” Asians and Caucasians were still African then. But want doesn’t make sense is: “where did she get it?” Either her ancestors returned to Africa and left again, or there was yet another migration from Africa before ours.

We are going to need to find a 100,000+ year old African in Europe, or a 100,000+ Neanderthal in Africa to nail this one down. We don’t even have any finger bones or teeth for these mysterious people. But who knows? Maybe they interbred their way into obscurity too. Why not?

There may have been dozens of lineages from varying groups leaving Africa. It’s not hard to leave Africa. One can walk to Europe/Asia via Egypt, or raft it over to Spain. In an ice age, the oceans are 400 feet lower. Quite a lot of other foot traffic becomes possible. It’s a big planet. Lots of isolated groups could coexist.

What’s In It For Europeans and Asians?

If 4% of the genome (and maybe a lot more) is Neanderthal, does it show?

  1. Occipital bun. This is a bulge at the back of the skull.
  2. Brow ridge. A bone ridge directly behind the eyebrows.
  3. Rosy cheeks. Bones seem to indicate that Neanderthal cheeks had richer blood supplies.
  4. Freckles
  5. Red Hair.
  6. Large Eyes.

Know anyone matching the description?

Davis has the first two. Neanderthal blood for sure.

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