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Neanderthals and Humans Lived Together for Over 2,000 Years

Archaeologists, palaeontologists, and biologists are working together to reconstruct the genetic dynamics that gave rise to modern Homo sapiens. We know a lot about our forefathers, but there is so much more to learn. Modern Homo sapiens can be traced back to Homo habilis and Homo erectus, among other direct descendants. Meanwhile, because the Neanderthals belonged to a different genetic lineage, their evolution was parallel. We thought the Neanderthals were extinct for more than forty thousand years, but new evidence suggests they are still alive. They are, in fact, "in" us.


The science and other important information


This demonstrates that modern humans and Neanderthals shared the same land for at least two millennia—France and northern Spain. Although the findings are not mentioned in the text, previous research has supplied data from DNA samples that account for genetic interaction.

The research team, co-led by doctoral student and lead author of the article Igor Djakovic, analyzed 28 archaeological samples of human artifacts—bones, blades, arrowheads, or the like—and the same number of Neanderthal artefacts, all extracted from the territory circumscribed between what is now the border between France and Spain.


The team of experts found that Neanderthals in the region fell extinct between 40,870 and 40,457 years ago, whereas modern humans arose around 42,500 years ago, using a dating technique known as carbon-14 or radiocarbon dating. That leaves around two thousand years where both species coexisted and reproduced in supposed harmony.


What's the big deal?


Prior to the Djakovic investigation, archaeological samples revealed genetic crossings between Neanderthals and Homo humans dating back a hundred thousand years. The current study, however, implies that the period of coexistence coincided with a period of "humanization" of the Neanderthals prior to their extinction. That is, the instruments they created were beginning to resemble those of humans.


Djakovic told the French press AFP that “[this period] is associated with substantial transformations in the way people produce materiAccording to Djakovic, "[this period] is related with significant transformations in the way people produce material cultures such as tools and decorations." 


These modifications, together with the evidence of genetic crossbreeding, support the theory that the Neanderthals were wiped off by mating with more intellectual and developed humans. All cultures such as tools and ornaments. These changes, added to the available evidence of genetic crossbreeding, reinforce the hypothesis that the cause of the extinction of the Neanderthals was to have mated with more intelligent and developed humans.


What comes next?


"When you combine that with the fact that most individuals on Earth carry Neanderthal DNA, you might argue that they never truly went extinct," Djakovic added. The study continues by recognising its limits and highlighting that, despite the achievement of identifying this period of intimate interaction among our forefathers, "the precise nature of this coexistence remains to be resolved."


Reference(s): Scientific Reports and AFP

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