Ancient Genome Of 13 Neanderthal Families Show They Were ‘Just Like Us In Many Ways’


An international team recently mapped the DNA from bones of at least eight Neanderthal adult males and five children to learn more about our ‘ancient cousins.’

What they found from the genomes of these 13 Neanderthals is that they ‘ate, slept, loved and died in the company of their kin and were connected to other groups that made up a region’s Neanderthal population.’

These amazing findings demonstrated was the very first snapshot of what an actual family did when they were alive 54,000 years ago.

Co-author of the study, Benjamin Peter, of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Germany, said, “Our study provides a concrete picture of what a Neanderthal community may have looked like. It makes them seem much more human to me.”

At least eleven of the specimens were found in the dug up remains of the Chagyrskaya Cave in the Alta Mountains of southern Siberia.

These remains included that of a father and his teenage daughter, alongside a pair of second degree relatives, which were that of a young boy and an adult female believed to be a cousin possibly, or maybe an aunt or a grandmother.

What the research shows is that all of these amazing discoveries suggest that these Neanderthals probably lived and died all around the same time as each other. Together, they also make up what’s known to be the biggest known genetic study of Neanderthals to this day.

More findings also tell us other hypothesis, like that the DNA was mostly spread through the traveling females. Much like humans, the bonds of marriage or pair-bonding as it’s known for animal species, it would seem that Neanderthals also saw women change their social groups to go live with the family of her husband.

It Was Female Migration That Drove Diversity

For the past 14 years, the Chagyrskaya Cave has been excavated, producing one of the biggest gatherings of its kind in the whole world. Aside from several hundred thousand stone tools and animal bones, Russian scientists also retrieved over 80 bone and tooth fragments of Neanderthals as well.

They were found to have occupied western Eurasia from around 430,000 to 40,000 years go, and are said to be closely related to modern humans.


Also form the Max Planck Institute, first author, Dr. Laurits Skov, said, “The fact [these individuals] were living at the same time is very exciting. This means they likely came from the same social community. So, for the first time, we can use genetics to study the social organization of a Neanderthal community.”

Researchers also share that another fascinating discovery is the ‘extremely low genetic diversity – consistent with a group size of 10 to 20 individuals.’ They explain that this is a much lower than those of any ancient or present-day human community. In fact, it was closer in similarity to the size of endangered species on the verge of extinction.

The study, which was published in Nature journal, found that the ‘genetic diversity of mitochondrial DNA suggests the communities were primarily linked by female migration.’ Moreover, they also found that it didn’t involve Denisovans, who occupied the Denisova Cave over 60 miles away.

In addition, there was no evidence found of gene flow from the other group of ancient humans throughout the previous 20,000 years either.

DNA has also been retrieved from 18 Neanderthals since the first draft genome was published back in 2010. This data has also provided a wide review of the population, yet little was known about their social organizations, until now at least.

What was also found was that the Neanderthals from Chagyrskaya and Okladnikov hunted bison, horses, ibex, and other animals that migrated throughout the river valleys that the caves overlook.

They also collected raw materials which they used for their stone tools tens of miles away. It was this occurrence of the very same raw materials seen in the evidence that supports the genetic data that these groups that inhabited these particular locations and areas were indeed, closely linked.

Former studies of a fossil toe from Denisova cave showed that Neanderthals inhibited the Altai mountains in earlier years too, possibly around 120,000 years before. But what the genetic data of the Neanderthals show that not only are they not descendants of these earlier groups, but they are actually in closer relation to the European Neanderthals.

Study authors also share, “Detailed analysis of present-day hunting and gathering societies shows both men and women frequently move between groups and that dispersed relatives often maintain lifelong ties, which is not the case for apes. A father whose daughter moves to another community is able to recognize his grandchildren as kin and to bond with, or at least tolerate, his son-in-law. This can allow vast social networks to form, if population densities are high enough.”


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