Research into ancient DNA unveils more mysteries of ancient humanity. Its misalliances with Neanderthals were more common than we thought and we know that thanks to the oldest known piece of analyzed DNA.
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I really couldn’t miss this opportunity as I do live in the Czech Republic and I love to write about any science that has something to do with my little country.
There were actually two teams that recently made some breakthroughs in our understanding of the ancient history of Homo sapiens. First, a team led by Svante Pääb analyzed the remains of ancient humans from the Bulgarian cave Bačo Kiro. The people lived in the cave about 45,000 years ago. Secondly, the team led by Johanns Krauss analyzed the DNA of an ancient woman found in the Zlatý Kůň cave in the Czech Republic and the state of the DNA suggest she lived in the cave about 47,000 years ago.
The results brought us many interesting pieces of knowledge. First off, we know that humanity originated in Africa we shouldn’t be surprised that the woman from the Czech Republic was dark-skinned, dark-haired, and dark-eyed. And the current inhabitants of Europe aren’t her descendants, she is more closely related to people in Siberia or indigenous Americans.
She was most likely part of the population that lived all through Europe to Asia. And while these people were later pushed out of Europe by later migration waves they did survive in Asia further evolving and in ice ages, some went further East into North America.
The woman from Czechia carried about 3 % of Neanderthal DNA. That suggests that her ancestors intermingled with them about 2,000 – 3,000 years ago. Most likely when Homo sapiens coming from Africa met Neanderthals in the Middle East.
On the other hand, the analysis of the human DNA from Bulgaria had completely different results. The amount of Neanderthal DNA in their samples suggests their ancestors interbred with Neanderthals just six generations ago. About 170 years. So, our ancestors did not mate with Neanderthals only in the Middle East but also while living on the European continent.
And don’t attribute interbreeding and not interbreeding of the populations to racism. The far more likely explanation is that Czechia is at the very edge of where Neanderthals lived and thus ancient Homo sapiens had far fewer chances to even encounter them compared to the Balkans which was deep Neanderthal territory.
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