Evidence that Neanderthals and Humans Interbred?

National Geographic has a story up concerning that question The story concerns Cioclovina 1 – a skull discovered in 1942 and recently reanalyzed by a group that includes Erik Trinkaus. The group argues that the skull displays nuchal morphology found only in Neanderthals, along with some derived modern human features:

Neandertal features like the skull groove were either not present among those populations or were so rare that they’ve not yet been found, he said.
“So when we find them in early modern humans in places like Europe, it’s a probability statement–either they were very rare in ancestral humans but popped up in these humans or they were something acquired through some small level of admixing with Neandertals,” he added.
“We have enough of them now that with each trait the probability of it being just something we haven’t seen yet in the early Africans becomes less and less.”

The best quote in the article comes a few sentences later:

“As for sex in the Pleistocene [Ice Age] … I expect they had it,” he said. “Neither humans nor Neandertals had a lot of mate choice and, well, that’s what happens in the real world. People do what people do.”

The National Geographic also presents a skeptical view, in the form of Eric Delson:

Eric Delson, a paleoanthropologist at Lehman College in the Bronx, New York, cautions that the groove feature might or might not be exactly the same as those found in Neandertals.
It may simply be a type of unusual feature expected in a variable human population like the group that colonized Europe, he said.
“If you look at a thousand modern humans, you can often find one or two that have a bump here, or a groove or depression there,” he said.
“That doesn’t make them Neandertals or prove that there was a Neandertal in their ancestry some 30,000 years ago.”

The article is available (subscription only) here – if someone with access to Current Anthropology can send me a copy of the article I would greatly appreciate it (see contact info above for email address).
Thanks! I have the paper now.

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3 Responses

  1. Funny thing, if the Almas exists, and if the Almas are neanderthals or descended from neanderthals, and if the events recounted in the Wikipedia article on the Almas occurred, then we have a near contemporary situation where human-neanderthal breeding occured and produced viable, fertile young. As a matter of fact, descendents of the original human-neanderthal couple could still be alive and living in the area But be sure to follow the leads to articles and outside sites provided by the article in question. Wikipedia is best used as a start to research, not as the whole of research material.

  2. Wrong thread, Alan? Or did Afarensis edit a reference to Almasty out of the post? Oddly enough, I was just reading about the Almas, but it was in a whole nother context.

  3. I don’t think you need to bring up Almas(there are several other names for such beings), to posit that there was some level of interbreeding between the two groups. If there were places where the territories of Neandertals and “moderns” overlapped, and they were aware of each other, then such things are certainly within the realm of possibility. It also helps that, as far as anybody can tell, the behaviors of the two groups were more or less identical at the time that they coexisted.
    Anne G

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