A study has found that the oldest DNA ever found in human remains belongs to a woman who lived in the Czech Republic more than 45,000 years ago.
Analysis of her skull reveals that she was among the first batch of Homo sapiens to live in Eurasia after our species migrated out of Africa.
It is believed that the woman, called Zlatý kůň, may have had the ancestors of Neanderthals as little as six or fewer generations in her past.
Found strengths that humans mated with Neanderthals shortly after we first reached Europe between 50,000 and 45,000 years ago.
This mating event saw humans absorb some Neanderthal genes that survive in all modern humans except Africans.
Neanderthals would be exterminated shortly after, with some researchers saying that competition with Homo sapiens and a changing climate was due.
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In the picture, the skull of a modern human female individual is called Zlatý kůň. The genetic material obtained from this sample is believed to be the oldest human DNA found in Europe, showing that Homo sapiens mated with Neanderthals shortly after arriving in Europe.
Pictured are excavations at Bacho Kiro Cave in Bulgaria. Several modern human bones were recovered from this layer along with a rich collection of stone tools, animal bones, bone tools and pendants
Timeline for human mating with Neanderthals
50,000 years ago: People migrate out of Africa
About 48,000 years ago: Mixing event between Neanderthal and Homo sapiens. Humans mate with Neanderthals for the first time
45,000 years ago: Oldest surviving human fossils in Europe lived
40,000 years ago: The Neanderthals died
Researchers from the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History in Germany tried to date the skeletal remains using radiocarbon isotopes, the traditional and widespread method of finding out when a fossil lived.
However, contamination of the residues made this impossible.
But Neanderthal DNA can be used as a proxy for dating because the length of its segments in the genetic code steadily decreases over generations.
The researchers found in their study, published in Nature Ecology and Evolution, that Zlatý kůň has long strips of uninterrupted Neanderthal DNA scattered throughout her genome, indicating that she did not live long after humans were mated with Neanderthals.
‘The results of our DNA analysis show that Zlatý kůň lived closer to the time of the mixing incident with Neanderthals,’ says Kay Prüfer, co-lead author of the study.
In fact, the team estimates that Zlatý kůň lived only 2,000 years after the first human-Neanderthal trials.
DNA from this person and their population is not seen in modern humans in either Asia or Europe, where Homo sapiens later colonized, the researchers found.
‘It is quite exciting that the earliest modern humans in Europe ultimately failed!’ says Johannes Krause, senior author of the study and director of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology.
This testimony, the academics say, means that the Czech person is almost certainly older than other graduates with a claim as the earliest human fossil in Europe.
In the photo, microsamples the leg of Zlatý kůň from the base of the skull in the clean room of the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History
It is believed that the Czech woman, called Zlatý kůň, may have had Neanderthal ancestors as little as six or fewer generations left
Two studies published today look at the genetic information about Homo sapiens and how much Neanderthal DNA was in their genomes. One study was based in the Czech Republic and one was in Bulgaria
Professor Chris Stringer, research director of Human Evolution at the Natural History Museum, who was not involved in the research, said: ‘The partial skull and skeleton of Zlatý kůň were discovered in 1950 and are thought to be only about 15,000 years old.
‘New analyzes of the woman’s skull have radiocarbon dated it to about 34,000 years old, but genomic data suggest it is eventually 10,000 years older than that and possibly represents one of the oldest modern humans known so far from Eurasia.’
Last year, scientists discovered human remains in a Bulgarian cave called Bacho Kiro, where they probably lived with the Neanderthals.
The cave was first discovered and excavated in the 1970s and is located three miles (5 km) from the town of Dryanovo.
Picture the intact tooth of a person found in the Bacho Kiro cave in Bulgaria. Extensive data from this person indicate that he had a Neanderthal ancestor less than six generations before he lived
Picture the entrance to the Bacho Kiro Cave. The excavations are just inside the entrance and to the left. The cave extends over 3 km and is a popular tourist destination
A study, also published today in the journal Nature, revealed further insights into these remains and found that they lived between 45,930 and 42,580 years before the present.
This finding supports the claims made last year that humans probably lived with Neanderthals for millennia before our cousins became extinct about 40,000 years ago.
Analysis of their genomes showed that the three oldest people buried in the cave have more than three percent Neanderthal DNA in their genome.
Analysis of the fossil human remains found that people regularly hunted bison and deer, while also making animal teeth into fashion accessories – something that Neanderthals are also known to have done.
Pictured are excavations at Bacho Kiro Cave. The excavator in front detects artifacts (each marked with a colored pin). The barcode bags are for individual artifacts once their position has been registered with a total station
A map showing the relative dates when humans arrived on the various continents, including Europe 45,000 years ago. All of humanity began in Africa and went beyond it after spreading across the continent for thousands of years
Several cave bear teeth that had been transformed into personal ornaments were also discovered at the Bulgarian site.
Professor Stringer adds that the results indicate that there were ‘more pulses’ of Homo sapiens spreading across Eurasia.
He believes that the different waves of Homo sapien colonization would explain why the Zlatý kůň genus did not succeed. This would also mean that there were various linking events with Neanderthals, he adds.
SCHEDULE FOR HOW Humans evolved and mated with other HOMINIAN SPECIES
A million years ago Homo sapiens (modern humans), Denisovans, Neanderthals, and an unidentified ‘ghost’ population had not yet evolved. All that existed was a single common ancestor.
Some theories claim that this may be Homo erectus or Homo heidelbergensis
700,000 to 300,000 years ago – Neanderthals split from the common ancestor to form their own species and migrated to western Eurasia
765,000 to 550.00 years ago – Denisovans split and formed its own species and dominated eastern Eurasia
130,000 years ago – Common ancestors in Africa evolved into what we today recognize as Homo sapiens
100,000 years ago – A large wave of Homo sapiens migrated out of Africa and into the Levant
75,000 years ago – Neanderthals branched out to the east and encountered Denisovans. These two species were then mated.
50,000 years ago – Homo sapiens begins to migrate to Europe
45,000 years ago – Denisovans and Neanderthals mated with Homo sapiens in Asia and Europe respectively.
40,000 years ago – Denisovans and Neanderthals died
15,000 years ago – Homo sapiens migrated into America