The last Neanderthals may have died longer ago than previously thought

Until this week, it was widely accepted that the Neanderthal branch of our genetic tree came to an end around 28,000 years ago on the Rock of Gibraltar. Bones found in caves in the area were thought to be the last of our distant ancestors, but recent developments in dating them has cast doubt on the theory.

Using a new form of testing, a team of Oxford scientists revisited bones that were previously thought to be 35,000 years old and in the process came up with a new estimate adding another 15,000 years to their age. If these new dates are correct it casts much doubt on the belief that there were thousands of years in which both Neanderthals and Homo-sapiens existed together in Europe; maybe even interacting and interbreeding. If the bones tested are indeed 50,000 years old, that mean they are around 2,000 years older than the first known evidence of the existence of Homo-sapiens on the continent.

It was thought that the arrival of modern humans in Europe at this time contributed to the demise of the Neanderthal people - another theory that is now going need to be revisited. DNA evidence does show some level of mixing between the two branches of our tree, but how and when is now a question that is further from being answered than ever.

Source: BBC News

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