It turns out that the inhabitants living in a Spanish cave some 400,000 years ago were actually Neanderthals.
That is a fresh twist on a long-running mystery over the origins of these 28 hominins from Sima de Los Huesos in northern Spain. Initially, researchers in 2013 showed that their maternally inherited mitochondrial DNA was distantly related to Denisovans, extinct relatives of Neanderthals in Asia who lived in Siberia and apparently elsewhere in Asia.
But the finding stirred up quite a debate, since the skeletal remains carry Neanderthal-derived features.
Ancient Human With 10 Percent Neanderthal Genes Found
Now, researchers of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology managed to sequence nuclear DNA from fossils from the cave.
Related: Oldest Human DNA Ever Is Found In Spain, Poses More Questions Than Answers
"Sima de los Huesos is currently the only non-permafrost site that allow us to study DNA sequences from the Middle Pleistocene, the time period preceding 125,000 years ago," Matthias Meyer of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology and lead author of a study on the findings in Nature, said in a statement.