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III. Neanderthals are not the ancestors of Europeans


Figure 4-12 A comparison between the Cro-Magnon man and the Neanderthal Man


The Neanderthal man was an ape who had lived in Europe. From 60,000 to 300,000 years ago, they were the most powerful masters in Europe. Among those modern Europeans who immigrated from Africa were Cro-Magnon and the Neanderthal man. We can only conjecture the kind of conflicts which  existed between them.


People with fertile imagination created different versions of the story based purely on their conjecture represented in the following movies: Quest for Fire (1981), The Last Neanderthal 2010. Nonetheless, the fact is that after modern man came to Europe this gradually narrowed the scope of activities of the Neanderthal man who retreated to the southwest part of Europe. In the end, Neanderthal man  completely disappeared around 20,000 years ago.


In 1856, in a cave near the Neanderthal River Valley in Dusseldorf (Germany), skeletal fossils resembling human ( including the skull and other bones) was discovered, thus the name the Neanderthal man. Subsequently, similar skeletal fossils were found in various parts of Europe. For a very long period of time, archaeologists firmly believed that they were representatives of  Homo sapiens in Europe, the ancestors of Europeans.


Archeological research based on “physical comparison” is not reliable in establishing lineage relationship since it cannot accurately verify kinship. IN contrast, DNA decoding holds an absolute advantage in this regard. 


In the 2000 March issue of Nature, scientists from the University of Glasgow UK published an article entitled: ”Molecular analysis of Neanderthal DNA from the northern Caucasus”(Reference 8). In this article, the authors used mitochondrial DNA analysis to confirm that modern man is not related to the Neanderthal man.


This research team analyzed two groups of Neanderthal DNA samples: one sample was from the Russian Caucasus region known as Mezmaiskaya in which the Neanderthal remains were determinded to be from 28,000 years ago using carbon 14 dating method. The other was from Germany’s Neanderthal Valley Feldhofer Cave.


There is quite a large difference when these two samples of mitochondrial DNA sequences were compared with the Cambridge sequence. Therefore, the scientists’ conclusion was:


Phylogenetic analysis places the two Neanderthals from the Caucasus and western Germany together in a clade that is distinct from modern humans, suggesting that their mtDNA types have not contributed to the modern human mtDNA pool.”


IV  Did the DNA from the Neanderthal man got mixed into that in modern man?


1. The conjecture that ancestors of modern man may have mated with the Neanderthal man

After the modern man left Africa to settle in the central and western parts in Europe and Asia, they indeed lived along side of the Neanderthals man for close to 40,000 years. Even though the Neanderthals man was an ape and not truly human could it be possible that they might have mated with the ancestors of modern man during this long period of time? Could they have produced descendants? Indeed, there has been such conjecture in many people’s mind.


In fact, there is a very simple key to answer this question by knowing the number of pairs of chromosomes in the Neanderthals man. If the number is 24 pairs of chromosomes, then it is impossible to even entertain this conjecture. If one tries to mate a horse with a donkey, the progeny simply will not survive. The problem is that all research related to the Neanderthals man’s DNA simply cannot determine with certainty the number of pairs of DNA they have.


Even if the Neanderthals man had 23 pairs of chromosome as human being, the progeny cannot survive. Just as the lion and tiger both having 19 pairs of chromosomes, they may give birth to a Liger as “children” of this mating. However, these “children” will have not next generation.


The aforementioned movie “Quest of Fire” describes a Neanderthal tribe that lost its only source of fire at tens of thousands of years ago. At that time only the ancestors of modern man (possibly the Cro-Magnon man) knew how to obtain fire, specifically by drilling on wood. Thus, three Neanderthals were sent out to find fire. The story is about the Neanderthal’s quest for fire and the conflicts they have with animals and Cro-Magnons along the way. 


Interestingly, these three men while robbing the seedling flame from another tribe, rescued a Cro-Magnon woman leading to a mixed marriage between two very different ethnic groups. At the end of the movie, this marriage produced offspring. This film received an Oscar award. The other movie” The last Neanderthal” has a similar story. Nonetheless, these are stories based on the imagination of the writer and based on no any scientific evidence.


From the DNA perspective, there is not much difference between us and ancestors of modern man who lived over 30,000 years ago. Except for technology and the accumulation of knowledge, they were just as intelligent as we are. In the page 3 of the part 5, we will see that the ancestors of modern man who lived 60,000 years ago knew how to make the raft and crossed the wide ocean and reached Australia. The ancestors of modern European must also be the same for they were “brothers” who migrated from Africa. In terms of intelligence, the Neanderthal man was far inferior in comparison. From archaeological findings, the Cro-Magnon man created exquisite murals and sculptures. Except from copying the Cro-Magnon man in making spears, the Neanderthals did not create similar artistic work at all.


2. Chinese carry 5% of Neanderthal’s DNA?

In 2010, Dr. Svante Paabo’s research team from the Max-Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany published an article entitled: A Draft Sequence of the Neanderthal Genome (Reference 10).  In this article, they claimed to have discovered a small amount of Neanderthal DNA in modern Eurasians’ DNA.  Chinese have 5% whereas the French has 4% thus proving the Neanderthal and the ancestors of modern Eurasians had undergone mating.


Using the DNA fragment containing 76 nucleobase pairs from Neanderthal, the researchers compared this with DNA sequence from 5 non African ethnic groups and then compared it with African San and Yoruba ethnic groups’ DNA sequences. Then they calculated the differences between each ethnic groups. They arrived at the conclusion that Eurasians carry Neanderthal DNA. This research methodology relied on this fact that Neanderthal man had never been to Africa. Therefore, indigenous Africans simply cannot have Neanderthal DNA. Those living outside of Africa might carry Neanderthal DNA.


Using the Chinese Han ethnic group as the target of analysis, there is a computer program which automatically detects comparative differences. Result of this analysis showed that the Chinese Han ethnic group and this 76 nucleobase pair DNA’s “comparability ratio”H2. Then H2 minus H1 that is San’s DNA “comparability ratio” H1 . It was 5%. Based on this result, it was claimed that Chinese Han ethnic group carries Neanderthal DNA. However, in this research study, the scientists just used DNA sample from one single Chinese. From this standpoint, the seriousness and credibility of the research are call into question.


This research result had caused a great deal of controversy in anthropological circle, in particular among the Chinese molecular anthropologists who opposed the idea.


3.The reason for doubting that Chinese people carry 5% of Neanderthal DNA


(1) Since Chinese Han ethnic group and their ancestors have never had a history of living with the Neanderthal man, why is their Neanderthal DNA content greater than the French Neanderthal DNA (4.2%-4.5%)?  We know for sure that the Neanderthal man had lived in France among other regions.


(2) Difference in the DNA in people around the world is only one in a thousand. How then does one explain this conclusion that the differences in the DNA of people around the world is only one in one thousand if Chinese people carry 5% Neanderthal DNA whereas San in Africa do not carry any Neanderthal DNA?


(3) Neanderthal DNA might have been contaminated by modern man


The skeletal remains of the Neanderthal man are not only distributed widely but also in large quantity. Dr. Svante Paabo and colleagues collected 70 samples of Neanderthal fossils from Europe, central Asia and southern Siberia. However, they could only obtained samples of chromosomal DNA from just three fossil bones from the Vindija Cave in Croatia (Reference 10). Moreover, these DNA samples were apparently contaminated by bacteria.

Dr. Svante Paabo obtained 0.3 gram sample from this precious bone fossil and gave part of it to Edward Rubin at University of California’s  Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. These two research teams independently carried out genetic sequencing of the sample. In November of 2006, they released their results. Dr. Rubin found 65,250  nucleobase pairs (Reference 11) whereas Dr. Paabo found 1 million  nucleobase pairs. People soon noticed the discrepancy not only in the number of nucleobase pairs but also the differences in their conclusions. Dr. Paabo’s result showed that Neanderthals man had mated with modern man and yet Dr. Rubin research failed to support this conclusion. Subsequent samples analyzed obviously came for these three fossil bones.    


Edward Rubin and other researchers believe that the biggest challenge has not been resolved, namely, there is no way to exclude the possibility of human contamination from fallen skin cells during the sample processing.


Their research showed:

 “A simulation to test the Neanderthal contribution to the human genome found a 0% chance of Neanderthal input with a 0% to 20% confidence range. With this data, the authors cannot definitively rule out admixture .” (Reference 12)


Since these impurities directly impacted the research on the sample, we don’t have pure Neanderthal DNA because of the contamination by modern man’s DNA. Among the research team were Chinese sounding names like Heng Li, Weiwei Zhai . It is very likely that there were no San and Yoruba African researchers.


(4) Up to now, there is no reliable Neanderthal genome


Dr. Paabo’s Neanderthal DNA sample came from the Vindija Cave in Croatia. This is the only Neanderthal DNA research sample available today. Skeletal remains from which this sample was obtained has a history of 38,000 years. A complete set of chromosome for this skeletal remain may not exist at all. This is the major reason as to why it is not possible to confirm the number of chromosomes in the Neanderthal man.


 (5) Chinese scholars have different views

The new generation of molecular anthropologists such as Dr. Li Hui and Dr. Wangchuan Chao are researchers who support the Y chromosome Adam and the mitochondria Eve theories. Moreover, they are staunch supporters of “ origin from Africa theory”. They had published an article entitled: “Are Neanderthals challenging the out-of-Africa model for modern human origins?” (Reference 14)


It said:

 However, this result, especially the direction of the assumed gene flow, is quite doubtable. The comparison of only three Neanderthal genomes with few modern human genomes can not immediately answer questions about the evolutionary fate of the Neanderthals. Further analyses of the Neanderthal sequences and multiple modern human genomes, as well as the genomes of other archaic hominids, have the potential to be much more informative. And as regard of the direction of gene flow, we can first figure out the mutations that might have been inherited from Neanderthals, and then see whether Africans and non©\Africans carry these same mutations. Improved computational and statistical methods are needed.”

 (6)The only key to resolve the relationship between Neanderthals and modern man is via the true and accurate decoding of the DNA sequence. 

A fragment of the mitochondrial DNA hyper-variable region sequence is the only obtainable Neanderthal DNA material we have. And it is considered reliable. The conclusion from sequence analysis is this: Neanderthal simply cannot be the ancestor of modern European.

Could they be cousins of modern man? Within the DNA of modern man, can we find the DNA clues they left behind? Before we can obtain the entire Neanderthal chromosome DNA sequence, there is simply no way to judge. Besides, to accurately confirm the DNA sequence, on average one needs to repeat the analysis 10-20 times. For example, the researchers from Denmark and China repeated the analyses 20 times on Greenland’s 4000 year ago ancient Eskimo genome sequencing work. In comparison, the Neanderthal genome sequencing research is far inferior in terms of its rigor and accuracy.

If one day one manages to obtain the Neanderthal man’s real and uncontaminated DNA sequence; and from the incomplete fragments gathered one can then infer the number of chromosomes.(And whether there is the “Adam genetic marker” on the Y chromosome and whether there is “the first genetic marker” on the autosomal) (Please see Part 6). Hence, only in this way can one accurately determine the relationship between the Neanderthal man and modern man.



1. Luca Ermini£¬ et. al., Complete Mitochondrial Genome Sequence of the Tyrolean Iceman”, Current Biology 18, 1687–1693, November 11, 2008

2.Van Oven M,et. al., - mtDNA tree Build 14 (5 Apr 2012)

3 Andreas Keller, et. al.,New insights into the Tyrolean Iceman’s origin and phenotype as inferred by whole-genome sequencing, Nature communications, Feb 28 2012

4. Genome Research, “Y-Chromosome phylogenetic Tree”, Copyright 2009 Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory  Press.

5. Tom Higham, et. al.,The earliest evidence for anatomically modern humans in northwestern Europe, Nature ,24 November 2011

6. David Caramelli, et. al., A 28,000 Years Old Cro-Magnon mtDNA Sequence Differs from All Potentially Contaminating Modern Sequences , PLoS ONE ,July 2008 |

7. David Caramelli, et. al.,  Table S1 in A 28,000 Years Old Cro-Magnon mtDNA Sequence Differs from All Potentially Contaminating Modern Sequences , PLoS ONE ,July 2008 |

8. Igor V. Ovchinnikov, et. al., Molecular analysis of Neanderthal

DNA from the northern Caucasus, Nature, Mar.30 2000

9. Mian Zhaoa, et. al., Mitochondrial genome evidence reveals successful

Late Paleolithic settlement on the Tibetan Plateau£¬PNAS December 15, 2009 _ vol. 106 _ no. 50

10. Richard E. Green, et. al., A Draft Sequence of the Neandertal Genome, SCIENCE  7 MAY 2010 VOL 328

11. Edward M. Rubin£¬ James P. Noonan, et. al., Sequencing and Analysis of Neanderthal Genomic DNA, Science 17 November 2006

12.The National Museum of Natural History£¬Sequencing Neanderthal DNA:

13. Spencer Wells,“The Journey of Man: A Genetic Odyssey”book£¬ Part 7”Blood from a Stone.

14.WANG Chuanchao, LI Hui £¬Are Neanderthals challenging the “out-of-Africa” model for modern human origins?£¬ Communication on Contemporary Anthropology Vol. 4£¬Oct. 82010


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