Modern Humans and Neanderthals Never Co-Existed: Study

First Posted: Feb 05, 2013 04:09 AM EST

Neanderthals may have died out earlier than thought, reports LiveScience. The latest findings cast doubts on the previously held theory that lasted for 20 years stating modern humans and Neanderthals co-existed and had supposedly interbred.

The new finding that radiocarbon-dated fossil bones unearthed from two sites in southern Spain, suggests that Neanderthals and modern humans never lived together in the region. The Neanderthals had been extinct before the arrival of modern humans.

Neanderthals are the closest extinct human relatives that lived in Europe. They are believed to have existed some 350,000 years ago, sharing the land with humans.

In order to prove the hypothesis, an international team of researchers conducted a study on the 215 bones unearthed from 11 different sites in southern Iberia.

With the help of a technique known as 'ultrafiltration', they were able to separate the contaminants from the mixture of protein. On re-analyzing the bones, they dated them to beyond the 50,000 year limit of radiocarbon dating.

"Our results cast doubt on a hypothesis that has been broadly accepted since the early 1990s - that the last place for surviving Neanderthals was in the southern Iberian Peninsula," researcher Rachel Wood, an archaeologist and radiocarbon specialist at Australian National University in Canberra, was quoted as saying in Latinos Post. "Much of the evidence that has supported this idea is based on a series of radiocarbon dates, which cluster at around 35,000 years ago. Our results call all of these results into question."

The study confirms that for about 1,000 years, modern humans and Neanderthals never co-existed. While there is no evidence that present-day humans and Neanderthals had a sexual relationship, the new study suggests that it could be before the arrival of the modern humans in Europe.

As quoted in Science Recorder, based on the genetic evidence, it can be stated that the interbreeding between the two species occurred before modern humans migrated out of Africa.

The details of the study were published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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