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Neandertals among us

Neandertals lived in Europe and Asia from about 250,000 to 30,000 years ago. They had bigger brains than modern humans, but they never advanced technically beyond the stone age. Not too many years ago, archeologists and paleoanthropologists thought that modern humans had outcompeted the Neandertals and caused their demise.

Advances in analysis of ancient DNA and genetic testing have revealed that the Neandertals did not just disappear. They mated with modern humans when they met in Europe thousands of years ago and produced offspring with genes from both species. Modern humans of non-African origin have up to 3% Neandertal DNA. The people with the greatest concentration of Neandertal DNA are found in the region of Tuscany, Italy.

The story of human evolution is becoming clearer with the use of genetic testing. A tiny bone found in Denisova Cave in the Altai Mountains of Siberia provided DNA of previously unknown people which were different from Neandertals and modern humans. It turned out that these Denisovan people actually contributed 3% to 5% of their DNA to modern Melanesians and Australian Aborigines. The importance of the tiny bone would not have been recognized without genetic testing of its DNA.

Learn more about Human Evolution

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