Nah! I just wanted to get your attention. We are not descended from the Neanderthals. However, scientists have found out that there was some, shall we say, interaction between our ancestors and Neanderthals. Enough interaction that all of modern humanity carries 1% to 3% of Neanderthal DNA in our own DNA.

We have been taught that Homo sapiens did not fraternize with other species. That teaching has been proven incorrect. In the 1960s scientists found that different species of baboons interacted and interbred with each other. But the belief was that Homo sapiens didn’t. That theory was accepted because there was no proof of interbreeding.

Then one day a bulldozer in Israel pushed back some dirt and found a circular opening in the ground. This led to an underground cave that was loaded with ancient tools, ornaments and a large portion of a skull. The skull was of a hybrid human, part Homo sapiens and part Neanderthal.

The Neanderthals, who preceded Homo sapiens, left their homeland in Africa, traveled across the Middle East and went on to Europe. Tens of thousands of years later our ancestors made the same journey. Guess who they met in the Middle East? Yep, the Neanderthals. They were returning because a new ice age was beginning in Europe.

Scientists are starting to believe that this was a more common occurrence than they previously realized. At the same time DNA analysis of  female mitochondria and male ‘Y’ chromosomes is suggesting the same conclusion. We aren’t Neanderthals, but some of our ancestors were hybrids.

Scientists believe this interbreeding did what? Yes, it helped each of the species survive longer because we have been sharing good genes with each other. Gives me a warm, toasty feeling inside. For more information on this topic watch WTTW’s series titled First Peoples – Africa or check www.pbs.org.

Advertisements