Humans and Neanderthals Overlapped in Europe

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Humans and Neanderthals May Have Overlapped in Europe Longer Than Previously Thought

by Alex Fox/Smithsonianmag.com

Modern humans overlapped with Neanderthals in Europe for longer than previously thought, according to new research. Remains of Homo sapiens found in a Bulgarian cave are roughly 44,000 to 46,000 years old, making them the oldest directly dated remains of modern humans in Europe, reports Bruce Bower for Science News.

Neanderthals were stocky, cold-adapted hominins who lived throughout Europe and as far east as Siberia until around 40,000 years ago, reports Nicola Davis for the Guardian. Traces of Neanderthals live on in modern human DNA, suggesting that our species and theirs met and interbred, but how long the two groups overlapped is unclear.

Other human remains previously discovered in the United Kingdom and Italy have been dated to between 41,000 and 45,000 years ago, but their ages were measured indirectly, relying on the fossils’ archaeological and geological surroundings rather than the specimens themselves, reported Jonathon Amos for BBC News in 2011.

The direct dating of these newly unearthed remains from the Bacho Kiro Cave in northern Bulgaria comes from two sources: radiocarbon dating and DNA extracted from a tooth and six shards of bone identified as belonging to H. sapiens. Both methods dated the remains to around 44,000 to 46,000 years ago, the researchers report in two papers published in the journals Nature Ecology & Evolution and Nature.

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