New study adds to evidence modern humans not descended from
RANDOLPH E. SCHMID, Associated Press Writer
Monday, January 26, 2004
A study of the skulls of Neanderthals, comparing them with early and
modern humans, concludes that that ancient group is unlikely to have been
the ancestor of people today.
Scientists have long debated whether modern people are related to
Neanderthals, the squat, powerful hunters who dominated Europe for 100,000
years before dying out on the arrival of modern humans.
The new study, led by anthropologist Katerina Harvati of New York
University, measured 15 standard landmarks on the face and skull of
Neanderthals, early modern humans, current humans as well as other primate
species. The results are published in this week's issue of the Proceedings
of the National Academy of Sciences.
The study found that the differences measured between humans and
Neanderthals were significantly greater than those found between
subspecies of any single group, indicating Neanderthals were not a
subspecies of humans. In addition, the difference was as great or greater
than that found between closely related primate species, such as humans,
gorillas and chimpanzees.
While Harvati says the analysis "cannot completely rule out" a
relationship between humans and Neanderthals, it strongly suggests they
are separate species.
Her report comes just four months after anthropologist Erik Trinkaus of
Washington University in St. Louis reported the discovery of a jawbone in
a cave in Romania that may be evidence of the earliest modern humans in
The jawbone, dated at 34,000 to 36,000 years ago when humans overlapped
with Neanderthals, has characteristics similar to other early modern
humans, but also certain features that indicate a possible Neanderthal
connection, the researchers said. That suggests the possibility of
interbreeding with Neanderthals.
Last March, Richard G. Klein of Stanford University, reported that while
studies of DNA indicate that Neanderthals and humans had a common
ancestor, there is no evidence that the two ever mixed in substantial
numbers, which means that when the Neanderthals died out, so did their
But a study published in 2002 suggested that the genes of people today
carry vestiges of genes of Neanderthals and other extinct branches of the
That report by population biologist Alan R. Templeton of Washington
University in St. Louis suggests there were at least two distinct human
migrations out of Africa, the first between 420,000 and 840,000 years ago
and the second between 80,000 and 150,000 years ago.
According to Templeton, the most recent migration, and perhaps both, were
not "replacement events." Rather, he said DNA evidence shows evidence of