13 Neanderthal DNA reveals ‘exciting’ snapshot of ancient society | Anthropology

13 Neanderthal DNA reveals ‘exciting’ snapshot of ancient society | Anthropology

The first snapshot of Neanderthal society has been pieced together by scientists who examined ancient DNA from bone and tooth fragments found in caves in southern Siberia.

The researchers analyzed DNA from 13 Neanderthal men, women and children and found an interconnected web of relationships, including a father and his teenage daughter, another person related to the father, and two second-degree relatives, possibly an aunt and her nephew.

all of them Neanderthal As a result of the Neanderthals’ small population size, researchers believe that they spread widely, with communities scattered over great distances and numbering only 10 to 30 individuals.

Laurits Skov, first author of the study at the Max Planck Institute for Evolution Anthropology Leipzig, says that Neanderthals were alive at the same time “is very exciting” and implies that they belonged to a single social community.

Neanderthal remains have been recovered from numerous caves across western Eurasia – the region occupied by heavy-browed humans from about 430,000 years ago until their extinction 40,000 years ago. It was previously impossible to tell whether Neanderthals found at certain sites belonged to the community.

“Neanderthals in general, and particularly those with preserved DNA, remain extremely rare,” said Benjamin Peter, a senior author of the study from Leipzig. “We often tend to get single individuals from sites thousands of kilometers and thousands of years apart.”

The latest work, by researchers including Svante Pääbo, won this year Nobel Prize in Medicine For groundbreaking research on ancient genomes, DNA was examined from Neanderthal remains found in Chagirskaya Cave and nearby Okladnikov Cave in the Altai Mountains of southern Siberia.

Neanderthals took refuge in caves around 54,000 years ago, seeking cover to hunt ibex, horses, and bison as animals migrated along river valleys overlooking the caves. In addition to Neanderthal and animal bones, thousands of stone tools have been found.

writing In the journal NatureScientists describe how ancient DNA points to Neanderthals living at the same time, some members of the same family.

Further analysis revealed more genetic diversity in Neanderthal mitochondria – tiny battery-like structures found inside cells that are passed down only through the maternal line – compared to their Y chromosomes, which are passed from father to son. The most likely explanation, the researchers say, is that female Neanderthals traveled from their home communities to live with male partners. Whether force was involved is not a question DNA can answer. “Personally, I don’t think there’s particularly good evidence that Neanderthals were very different from early modern humans who lived at the same time,” Peter said.

“We found that the community we studied was probably very small, perhaps 10 to 20 individuals, and that the Neanderthal population spread across the Altai Mountains was very small,” Peter said. “Yet, they managed to persevere in a harsh environment for thousands of years, which I think deserves great respect.”

Dr Lara Cassidy, assistant professor of genetics at Trinity College Dublin, called the study a “milestone” as the “first genomic snapshot of a Neanderthal community”.

“Understanding how their societies were organized is important for many reasons,” Cassidy said. “It humanizes these people and gives them rich context in their lives. But also, if we have more studies like this down the line, it may also reveal unique aspects of our own social organization. A wise man Ancestors. It’s crucial to understanding why we’re here today and why Neanderthals weren’t.”

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