Neanderthal Hybrid

Implications of Neanderthal-Homo Sapiens Hybrid by Abrigo do Lagar Velho.

In a recent excavation at Abrigo do Lagar Velho in Portugal, Duarte et al
(1999) unearthed what was later to be recognized as early human skeletal remains
which pointed to interbreeding between Neanderthal and Modern Humans during the
mid - upper Palaeolithic transition. The morphology of the remains, belonging to
a child of approximately 3-4 years old, indicates a Neanderthal typology in
post-cranial features, and more modern cranial features. The find has been cited
as evidence of hybridization between the two traditionally separate human lines,
and offers an explanation to the question of Neanderthal extinction. (Trinkaus

1999) Anthropologists are now offered a line of evidence pointing to the
contemopranity of Moderns and Neanderthals in parts of Europe and assumptions
can be made about their contact: "The discoverers...are making a
ground-breaking claim, that the skeleton shows traces of both Neanderthal and
modern human ancestry, evidence that modern humans did not simply extinguish the

Neanderthals, as many researchers had come to think. Instead the two kinds of
human were so alike that in Portugal, at least, they intermingled...for
thousands of years." (Kunzig, 1999) By examining the theories of human
evolution, and looking at the cultural evolution of tool technology as well as
the biological transitions and differences between the two types of humans, we
can see that this hybridization just might be the answer. Perhaps this find will
be able to tell us what exactly did happen to the Neanderthals. Firstly, it is
useful to have an overview of the different theories of human evolution, or I
should say the two most widely accepted views as accepted by palaeo-anthropologists
in the field. For some years now it has been the contention that the origins of
modern humans stem from either a continuous evolution from archaic to modern
humans in local regions from an earlier dispersal of Homo erectus, or conversely
from modern humans evolved in Africa only which then dispersed to replace those
hominids in said regions. These two theories are known as the Continuity or

Regional model and the Replacement or Out of Africa model respectively. The
fossil (skeletal) and cultural (technological) evidence thus far has pointed to
convincing arguments on both sides, which proponents are quick to defend.

Neanderthals can be distinguished from anatomically Modern Humans by the
presence of prominent brow ridges, low forehead, occipital bun, facial
prognathicism, large nasal aperture, and shorter, sturdier skeletal features
most notably, distinguishing them from Moderns who were taller and had longer
limbs, higher foreheads, lass prominent browridges and rounder skulls. It should
be noted that the cranial capacities of both were comparable, with the

Neanderthals being even slightly larger. (Klein: 1989) Many proponents of a
regional theory claim that such morphological differences show a continuity and
depending on how they are viewed can be seen as evidence of variation within a
species, not distinct species. This would mean that the Neanderthal morphology
developed as an adaptation to the colder glacial climate of Europe and
elsewhere. (Wolpoff:1980) From a replacement standpoint however, these
differences in morphology are too distinct to be variables on a theme and in
conjunction with dates provides evidence supporting that view. (Mellars and

Stringer:1989) Neanderthals occupied Europe and the Middle East during a time
range usually agreed upon as ranging from roughly 130 kya - 35 kya to as recent
as approx. 26kya. Modern populations are seen as early as 100kya in the Middle

East and around 40 kya in Europe. At some sites in the middle east, both
populations lived in very close proximity to one another for what is thought to
be a time range of about 40 000 years. (Akazawa et al:1998) Recent developments
in genetic studies have begun to open new lines of evidence in the relatedness
of Neanderthals to current modern human populations. By studying the genes of
both, we can compare the similarities and differences and calculate whether the
two are close enough to say there is a relation or not. This line of research
had been theory mostly because the skeletal remains on record had no organic
material available from which to extract genetic material (i.e.: collagen in the
bone). DNA from a Neanderthal specimen would be able to confer or oppose the
" Mitochondrial Eve" theory put forth by Cann et al in 1987 (Foley and

Lahr 1992: 526; Klein 1989:352) which stated that the common ancestor for modern
human populations could be traced to approx. 200kya in Africa. When DNA was
finally extracted from a Neanderthal specimen, this could be addressed. The DNA
in question, retrieved from the original Neanderthal find from Neander Valley,
is