UK based scientists have discovered the strongest physical evidence ever found Neanderthals Humans interbreed with our own species, anatomically modern humans (AMH).
Over the past 10 years, researchers have succeeded in finding genetic evidence of the interbreeding of the two species, but this is the first time that they have identified compelling physical evidence of prehistoric Neanderthal / AMH hybrids.
Archaeologists discovered teeth in 1910 and 1911 in a cave on Jersey Island, but they have only now undergone detailed examination.
It is almost certain that they are of only two Neanderthals whose skulls or bodies were, probably intentionally, placed on a prominent ledge inside the cave of Lacot de Saint Brelade on the island’s now southwestern coast.
Professor Chris Stringer of the Museum of Natural History said: “Teeth of both individuals have some features that are typically Neanderthals and others anatomically modern humans.”
The roots that are large, strong and very long are the roots of the primitive Neanderthals, but their upper parts (especially the crowns) are usually AMH.
It is possible that both hybrids were members of the local Neanderthal community that periodically settled in the cave.
The discovery that Jersey teeth possibly belonged to the descendants of Neanderthal / AMH hybrids may help solve one of the greatest human mysteries – that is, why Neanderthals became extinct, and most importantly, why there is now only one human species, instead of several (as was the case for most of the Stone Age )?
Future international research is likely to shed light on whether the Neanderthal / AMH hybridization has any impact on Neanderthal fertility levels, demography and the ability to survive as a species.
Modern DNA research shows that most of us are descended from Stone Age members of both types. Most modern humans possess about 2 percent of the DNA originating from Neanderthals.
Ongoing research on Jersey Cave, conducted by six academic and other institutions in the UK, may ultimately shed light on the complex nature and heritage of Neanderthals for modern humanity in part.
Over the past five years, archaeological investigations in and around the cave have revealed for the first time the daily life of the Neanderthals (and possible mixed heritage) who lived there.
Hundreds of stone tools and large amounts of food remains have been discovered.
Archaeologists have studied the dozens of flint knives, several spearheads, and dozens of flint scrapers that cave dwellers use to clean animal skins and remove bark from wood.
Many tools were made in the cave, but the flint itself was brought there from at least 30 miles away.
Perhaps the most unusual find is a particularly impressive and beautiful scraper, made of red jasper, probably obtained from at least 100 miles away.
Food debris gives an idea of why Neanderthals were found in this particular cave.
It appears that they were feeding not only reindeer and bison, but also woolly rhinoceros and woolly mammoths that were very thick and “armed and dangerous”.
The cave appears to have been a hunting base specifically chosen because it overlooks a 10-square-mile area of dozens of small, steep canyons, two to three meters deep, that crisscross each other, providing ideal opportunities for ambush hunting.
The Killing Fields scene still exists today, but it is at the bottom of the English Channel. The mapping has now been done by researchers from the University of St Andrews and Aberystwyth University, using side-scan sonar and depth-scanning technology.
However, on the surface of 11 mixed Stone Age legacies, evidence has survived, indicating the possibility that the community’s food supply was not always necessarily safe.
Signs of poor tooth growth appear on her enamel, revealing that at least one of the two has experienced several periods of severe stress between the ages of three and five. Each period of stress may have lasted for several weeks – and may have been caused by bouts of malnutrition.
Scientists now plan to extract evidence from DNA, isotopes and other evidence from the teeth to gain additional insights into the identity of the owners.
In the balance of probabilities, they were members of the group that lived in the cave, but it is also conceivable that they were captives killed and eaten. Certainly, cannibalism was relatively common among Neanderthals, although normal respectful treatment of the dead was more common.
Only a future analysis of the food debris in the cave will reveal whether any of the Neanderthal feasts in the cave were humans – perhaps even from two young men of mixed heritage whose teeth are now beginning to reveal to the world an untold tragedy 45,000 years ago.
The project, which includes engineering works to highlight the site from devastation by the sea, became possible and funded by Jersey Heritage and the United Kingdom’s Natural Environment Research Council, and managed by scientists from the Museum of Natural History, UCL Archeology Institute, University of Wales Trinity Saint David, University of Kent, Archeology and Wessex And the British Museum. High-resolution CT scans of all teeth were made available to the public at Human-Fossil-Record.org.
The research was published Monday in a newspaper The Journal of Human Evolution.