Initial Upper Palaeolithic humans in Europe had recent Neanderthal ancestry

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

  • Mateja Hajdinjak
  • Fabrizio Mafessoni
  • Laurits Skov
  • Benjamin Vernot
  • Alexander Hübner
  • Qiaomei Fu
  • Elena Essel
  • Sarah Nagel
  • Birgit Nickel
  • Julia Richter
  • Oana Teodora Moldovan
  • Silviu Constantin
  • Elena Endarova
  • Nikolay Zahariev
  • Rosen Spasov
  • Geoff M Smith
  • Virginie Sinet-Mathiot
  • Lindsey Paskulin
  • Helen Fewlass
  • Sahra Talamo
  • Zeljko Rezek
  • Svoboda Sirakova
  • Nikolay Sirakov
  • Shannon P McPherron
  • Tsenka Tsanova
  • Jean-Jacques Hublin
  • Benjamin M Peter
  • Matthias Meyer
  • Pontus Skoglund
  • Janet Kelso
  • Svante Pääbo

Modern humans appeared in Europe by at least 45,000 years ago1-5, but the extent of their interactions with Neanderthals, who disappeared by about 40,000 years ago6, and their relationship to the broader expansion of modern humans outside Africa are poorly understood. Here we present genome-wide data from three individuals dated to between 45,930 and 42,580 years ago from Bacho Kiro Cave, Bulgaria1,2. They are the earliest Late Pleistocene modern humans known to have been recovered in Europe so far, and were found in association with an Initial Upper Palaeolithic artefact assemblage. Unlike two previously studied individuals of similar ages from Romania7 and Siberia8 who did not contribute detectably to later populations, these individuals are more closely related to present-day and ancient populations in East Asia and the Americas than to later west Eurasian populations. This indicates that they belonged to a modern human migration into Europe that was not previously known from the genetic record, and provides evidence that there was at least some continuity between the earliest modern humans in Europe and later people in Eurasia. Moreover, we find that all three individuals had Neanderthal ancestors a few generations back in their family history, confirming that the first European modern humans mixed with Neanderthals and suggesting that such mixing could have been common.

Original languageEnglish
Issue number7853
Pages (from-to)253-257
Number of pages5
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2021

ID: 259776371