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It's Official -- Some of Our Ancestors Were Neanderthals

Updated on May 29, 2019

Neanderthal Genome Project Establishes That Neanderthals Interbred With Our Human Ancestors

In 2006 a group of scientists began mapping the genetic structure, or genome, of Neanderthals. Using DNA fragments of prehistoric Neanderthal skeletons, they had completely mapped the entire Neanderthal genetic code by 2010.

The Neanderthals were a powerfully built and shorter version of our primary ancestors, the Cro-Magnons. It is widely accepted among anthropologists that they died out between thirty and forty thousand years ago. The dating of their remains overlaps the dating of Cro-Magnon remains, but, until recently, it was never clear whether these human-like beings were a separate species, or whether they were, or could be, a version of mankind that could mate with our established Cro-Magnon ancestors.

Based on comparing the complete DNA genome sequence of Neanderthals with that of present day humans, it is now established that the DNA of all humans who are not of recent African descent is comprised of between 1% and 4% of the Neanderthal DNA sequence.

Neanderthal Distribution -- 400,000 to 30,000 years ago.

Neanderthal ancestors migrated from Africa to Europe/Asia long before modern humans began their migration from Africa.
Neanderthal ancestors migrated from Africa to Europe/Asia long before modern humans began their migration from Africa. | Source

Neanderthals Were In Europe and Asia Long Before Modern Humans

It is widely accepted by genetic scientists that all humans who are not of current african descent are the descendants of a small group of people who migrated out of Africa approximately 60,000 to 80,000 years ago. This has been documented not only by the genetic record, but also by world-wide paleo-archaeological remains of our human ancestors.

Neanderthal remains, on the other hand, have been been found throughout Europe and Western Asia dating to approximately 400,000 years ago. It has long been established that Neanderthals and modern humans co-existed for some period of time prior to the Neanderthals' extinction, but this co-existence came about long after the Neanderthals had arrived in Europe and Western Asia.

Although the Neanderthal genome project has established interbreeding with modern humans, the degree to which there were any social or cultural ties that accompanied the physical interbreeding has not been established. It is also unclear whether the persistence of Neanderthal DNA in modern humans represents anything more than very fleeting and transitory sexual encounters between Neanderthals and humans.


Neanderthals Contributed to Our Genetic Heritage

Anthropologists believe that both humans and Neanderthals are branches of a genetic tree that originated with a common ancestor in Africa approximately 800,000 years ago. Neanderthals exhibit 99.7% match to the human genetic code. Comparatively, chimpanzees, humanity's closest living relative, split off from a common ancestor 5 million to 7 million years ago and share approximately 98% of the human genome.

Based on analysis this past year from the 2010 Neanderthal genome project, there seems to be widespread scientific acceptance that Neanderthals contributed to our genetic heritage.


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    • Emmanuel Kariuki profile image

      Emmanuel Kariuki 

      8 years ago from Nairobi, Kenya

      Very enlightening. Also glad to note Sapiens and Neanderthals were just cousins coming together again after a short break. shared!

    • gryphin423 profile image


      9 years ago from Florida

      interesting!! Good hub.

    • lundmusik profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Tucson AZ

      thanks molometer, really appreciate it

    • molometer profile image


      9 years ago from United Kingdom

      Another Great Hub lundmusik I think I saw this guy in the market the other day.

      I have a theory that they are still with us but just evolved to lose the pronounced fore-brow?

      We do all come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes.

      Voted up UI

    • lundmusik profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Tucson AZ

      thanks rooskaya,, appreciate your review

    • Rooskaya profile image


      9 years ago from USA

      Thanks for sharing an interesting hub. Voted up.

    • lundmusik profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Tucson AZ

      you betcha homestead,, I'm occasionally guilty of thinking I might want to think or act like one -- just ask my wife LOL

    • homesteadbound profile image

      Cindy Murdoch 

      9 years ago from Texas

      I think I've met a few neanderthals in my time, or their percentage of neanderthal was a whole lot higher than you spoke of. Very interesting!

    • lundmusik profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Tucson AZ

      Thanks Lynda, it's amazing that Neanderthals lived those several hundred thousand years in such harsh conditions -- something any life form would be proud of, especially largely hairless humans.

    • lmmartin profile image


      9 years ago from Alberta and Florida

      This is an area of interest for me as well. I've often thought it more likely Neanderthal blended with the later human species rather than just dying off. Made more sense. So let's all be proud of our Neanderthal genes!

    • lundmusik profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Tucson AZ

      Thanks all for your comments,,, ever since undergrad school I've been fascinated by Neanderthals,, so much of their existence and demise is still very much a mystery. What thinking about them has done for me is a greater love for humans generally and people specifically.

    • GreenMoversUSA profile image


      9 years ago

      It was really interesting.Thanks for sharing such a wonderful research you had done.

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      Arrived hub-hopping. Enjoyed this eough to go off and read two of your other works. Now following. More of the same thought-provoking stuff please

    • lundmusik profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Tucson AZ

      thanks stayingalive in Tempe already,, GREAT,, our son lives in Peoria,, I'll wave next time I'm through :)

    • stayingalivemoma profile image

      Valerie Washington 

      9 years ago from Tempe, Arizona

      this is some really interesting information! I think I have some Neanderthals in my family too! voted up and interesting

    • lundmusik profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Tucson AZ

      thanks thoughts,, it's been an hypothesis for some time,, my wife thinks all my immediate relatives are Neanderthals LOL

    • ThoughtSandwiches profile image


      9 years ago from Reno, Nevada

      Hi Lund (can I call you Lund?) ...Due to the overlap I assumed there would be some form of contact between the two groups and I certainly don't recall being original when I came up with the hypothesis...I saw it on the Discover channel or some such. Now there is apparently proof. Thank you for adding to my knowledge. Voted Up, interesting, and useful. Welcome to Hubpages.


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