Remains of a Neanderthal woman who lived around 100,000 years ago in the Altai Mountains of Siberia reveal that human and Neanderthals mated much earlier than previously thought.
One or more of her relatives were actually humans, a new study shows.
It has been known that Neanderthals contributed DNA to modern humans, so people today of European and Asian descent retain Neanderthal DNA in their genomes, but the Neanderthal woman offers the first evidence that gene flow from interbreeding went from modern humans into Neanderthals as well.
Photos: Faces of Our Ancestors
The study, published in the journal Nature, "is also the first to provide genetic evidence of modern humans outside Africa as early as 100,000 years ago," Sergi Castellano, who co-led the study and is a researcher at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, told Discovery News.
Given the now closely intertwined histories of Neanderthals and Homo sapiens, Castellano added that "it is better to refer to Neanderthals and modern humans as two different human groups, one archaic and one modern, and not different species."