DNA Study: Neandertals Played Little Part in Evolution of Modern Humans
April 5, 2000
by Spencer P.M. Harrington
Genetic study of a rib of a 29,000-year-old Neandertal infant found in a
cave in the northern Caucasus has provided more support for the idea that
Neandertals played little or no part in the evolution of modern humans.
Analysis of the rib bore out the results of a 1997 test on a
40,000-year-old German specimen, which provided molecular evidence that
Neandertals did not contribute mitochondrial DNA to modern humans.
According to both studies, Neandertals and modern humans were estimated to
have diverged from one another between 300,000 and 850,000 years ago. These
studies are a challenge to some European and American scientists who
believe that Neandertals and modern humans interbred between 30,000 and
40,000 years ago, shortly before Neandertals disappeared from Europe ca.
28,000 years ago. While the two genetic samples were taken from
Neandertals who lived far apart from each other, the tests show that the
two individuals belonged to a single gene pool.
"The new DNA study confirms the gap between Neandertals and living populations," says Jean-Jacques Hublin, director of research at France's
Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique in Paris. "Once more it
shows that there is no close connection between Neandertals and modern
Europeans. It also confirms the homogeneity of the Neandertals and lends
support to some of my views on the process of emergence of this group of
© 2000 by the Archaeological Institute of America