A substantial fraction of the Neanderthal genome persists in modern human populations. A new approach applied to analyzing whole-genome sequencing data from 665 people from Europe and East Asia shows that more than 20 percent of the Neanderthal genome survives in the DNA of this contemporary group, whose genetic information is part of the 1,000 Genomes Project.
Previous research proposes that someone of non-African descent may have inherited approximately 1 percent to 3 percent of his or her genome from Neanderthal ancestors. These archaic DNA sequences can vary from one person to another and were aggregated in the present study to determine the extent of the Neanderthal genome remaining in the study group as a whole. The findings are a start to identifying the location of specific pieces of Neanderthal DNA in modern humans and a beginning to creating a collection of Neanderthal lineages surviving in present-day human populations. Read more.
The DNA of a Neanderthal found in a Siberian cave has been sequenced, thanks to a new technique that weeded out contamination from modern humans.
The method, described today (Jan. 27) in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, seems to work on very contaminated samples, as well as on incredibly ancient remains. These benefits could help scientists finally analyze some of the most intriguing archaic human fossils, which have thus far been inaccessible because of contamination from modern DNA, said study co-author Pontus Skoglund, a paleogenomics researcher at Uppsala University in Sweden.
Archaeologists excavated some of the most tantalizing fossils of ancient humans, such as Neanderthal bones, decades or even centuries ago. However, while handling the bones, archaeologists often contaminated the archaic DNA sequences with their modern genetic material. Read more.
A rock shelter site located above the river Segre in the Pyrenees foothills of northeastern Spain is yielding evidence of Neanderthal occupation that could post-date 40,000 years BP, according to researchers. This would place the ancient occupiers among the last Neanderthals to inhabit the area of present-day Europe, and finds at the site could provide clues to how the Neanderthals adapted to changing environmental circumstances and whether or not they coexisted with the emerging modern human populations in the region.
Called La Roca dels Bous, the rock shelter has been the subject of intense excavation and study by archaeologists and student volunteers under the joint direction of Dr. Rafael Mora Torcal of the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, Ma. Xavier Roda Gilabert of the Ministry of Science and Innovation of the Spanish Government, and Adrià Millán Gil of archaeoBarcelona. Read more.
Discovering my first Neanderthal skeleton in Iraq’s Shanidar Cave in the spring of 1957 took my breath away.
Archaeology is a time-consuming, labor-intensive science, so when you find remains in a former residential space dating back 40,000 years, you start to imagine what life must have been like then and how anyone could have survived for long.
In 1950, I was a graduate student at Columbia University. As part of my thesis, I began to explore caves in the Middle East in search of an ideal excavation site.
When I arrived in Iraq’s Greater Zab valley in 1950, locals suggested I hike an hour up to the Shanidar Cave. The interior was as spacious as a single-family house—roughly 3,000 square feet with a 20-foot ceiling. Read more.
The oldest human tumor ever found — by more than 100,000 years — has been discovered in the rib of a Neanderthal.
The bone, excavated more than 100 years ago in Croatia, has been hollowed out by a tumor still seen in humans today, known as fibrous dysplasia. These tumors are not cancerous (they don’t spread to other tissues), but they replace the weblike inner structure of a bone with a soft, fibrous mass.
"They range all the way from being totally benign, where you wouldn’t recognize them, to being extremely painful," said David Frayer, an anthropologist at the University of Kansas who reported the finding along with his colleagues today (June 5) in the journal PLOS ONE. "The size of this one, and the bulging of it, probably caused the individual pain." Read more.
A baby Neanderthal who lived in what is now Belgium about 100,000 years ago started eating solid food at 7 months old, revealing a new aspect of the evolution of breast-feeding.
The precision of this estimate is courtesy a new technique that uses elements in teeth to determine when breast-feeding started and stopped. Though researchers can’t be sure the young Neanderthal’s pattern was typical of its kind, such a breast-feeding pattern is not unlike that seen in many modern humans.
"Breast-feeding is such a major event in childhood, and it’s important for so many reasons," study researcher Manish Arora, a research associate at Harvard’s School of Public Health, told LiveScience. "It’s a major determinate of child health and immune protection, so breast-feeding is important both from the point of view of studying our evolution as well as studying health in modern humans." Read more.
The skeletal remains of an individual living in northern Italy 40,000-30,000 years ago are believed to be that of a human/Neanderthal hybrid, according to a paper in PLoS ONE.
If further analysis proves the theory correct, the remains belonged to the first known such hybrid, providing direct evidence that humans and Neanderthals interbred. Prior genetic research determined the DNA of people with European and Asian ancestry is 1 to 4 percent Neanderthal.
The present study focuses on the individual’s jaw, which was unearthed at a rock-shelter called Riparo di Mezzena in the Monti Lessini region of Italy. Both Neanderthals and modern humans inhabited Europe at the time. Read more.
The first complete mammoth skeleton to be found in France for more than a century has been uncovered in a gravel pit on the banks of the Marne 30 miles north-east of Paris.
The find, first made in July but kept secret until this week, has yielded a second, even more exciting, discovery. Two tiny fragments of flint blade have been found embedded in the mammoth’s skull close to one of its tusks.
Archaeologists speculated, when they first found “Helmut le Mammouth” that he had come to a sticky end between 130,000 and 190,000 years ago. They concluded that the animal, maybe 9ft high and weighing up to five tonnes, had foundered on soft mud or quicksand.
Now another possibility arises. The mammoth could have been attacked by one of the bands of Neanderthal men and women who wandered over the European tundra in the cold, dry period between two ice ages more than a thousand centuries ago. Read more.