The ancient history of Neanderthals in Europe

The ancient history of Neandertals in Europe
The femur of a male Neandertal from Hohlenstein-Stadel Cave, Germany. Credit: © Oleg Kuchar, Museum Ulm

Researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, have retrieved nuclear genome sequences from the femur of a male Neanderthal discovered in 1937 in Hohlenstein-Stadel Cave, Germany, and from the maxillary bone of a Neanderthal girl found in 1993 in Scladina Cave, Belgium. Both Neanderthals lived around 120,000 years ago, and therefore predate most of the Neanderthals whose genomes have been sequenced to date.

By examining the nuclear genomes of these two individuals, the researchers could show that these early Neanderthals in Western Europe were more closely related to the last Neanderthals who lived in the same region as much as 80,000 years later, than they were to contemporaneous Neanderthals living in Siberia. "The result is truly extraordinary and a stark contrast to the turbulent history of replacements, large-scale admixtures and extinctions that is seen in modern human history," says Kay Prüfer who supervised the study.

Intriguingly, unlike the nuclear , the mitochondrial genome of the Neanderthal from Hohlenstein-Stadel Cave in Germany is quite different from that of later Neanderthals—a previous report showed that more than 70 mutations distinguish it from the mitochondrial genomes of other Neanderthals. The researchers suggest that early European Neanderthals may have inherited DNA from a yet undescribed population. "This unknown population could represent an isolated Neanderthal population yet to be discovered, or may be from a potentially larger population in Africa related to ," explains Stéphane Peyrégne who led the analysis.

  • The ancient history of Neandertals in Europe
    The Maxillary bone of a Neandertal girl from Scladina Cave, Belgium. Credit: © J. Eloy, AWEM, Archéologie andennaise
  • The ancient history of Neandertals in Europe
    Scladina Cave. Credit: D. Bonjean, © Archéologie andennaise

The study is published in Science Advances today.

Processing of samples in the ancient DNA laboratory and analysis of the sequencing data generated. Credit: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology

Explore further

DNA of early Neanderthal gives timeline for new modern human-related dispersal from Africa

More information: S. Peyrégne el al., "Nuclear DNA from two early Neandertals reveals 80,000 years of genetic continuity in Europe," Science Advances (2019). DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aaw5873 ,
Journal information: Science Advances

Provided by Max Planck Society
Citation: The ancient history of Neanderthals in Europe (2019, June 26) retrieved 21 September 2019 from
This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only.

Feedback to editors

User comments

Jun 26, 2019
The Neanderthal Conference at Gorham's Cave, Gibraltar


Jun 26, 2019
Use some of that ground penetrating radar or other remote sensing to find very early neanderthaler settlements in north Africa under the Sahara sand. Probably around lakes where they either originally were, or as refugees in glaciatiions that made Europe less desirable a place to live. It is here that some basic questions will be answered. North Africa is full of dry lake beds from before the Sahara ruined things. Could also be that the area of the Sahara is 'cyclic.

Jun 27, 2019
Osiris1. Have you seen "Im Herz der Sahara Wuste" from around 2001. A German expedition through the Sahara, recording numerous ancient stone tools and exquisite rock carvings. Well worth watching on youtube when you get the time.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more