Earliest Neanderthal Encounters


June 24, 2015

Science writer Ewen Callaway, writing in the journal Nature this week, examines recent evidence of the earliest encounters in Europe  between long resident Neanderthals and waves of modern humans migrating from Africa.

Three recent finds of our species, Homo sapiens, ranging in age from 37,000 to 45,000 years ago fail to answer questions raised earlier and in addition show the consequences of H. neanderthalensis - H. sapiens encounters were more complicated than thought earlier.

For example, a forty thousand year old jawbone from Rumania yielded a far higher proportion of Neanderthal genes than found among modern Europeans and may have had a Neanderthal great-great grandfather but did not pass his genes on to later generations. The author suggests this indicates later migrants from Africa were the ancestors of modern Europeans.

Many scientists find evidence of a Levantine migration compelling, while others postulate the earliest out of Africa humans moved first northwards into Russia and generations later moved westwards into Europe.

Read this intriguing article in this week’s Nature.