Monday, August 12, 2013

Neanderthal, Really?

One of the first DNA results to be posted to my account by 23andMe was what percentage of my DNA is of Neanderthal origin. 

I was not sure I wanted to know that.  After all, being called a Neanderthal in my childhood was paramount to being called stupid and they looked like cave men.  However, curiosity got the best of me and I clicked on the icon.  Yikes, not only was I part Neanderthal, my percentage at 2.9% was higher than the average European of 2.7%.

Okay, I have to find out more so I started goggling.  Apparently, most non African populations contain sizable chunks of DNA from the Neanderthals and other archaic human relatives such as those found in the Denisova cave.  These humanoid species left Africa earlier than did Homo Sapiens. I can't say us and them anymore because somehow us is them now too.  Anyway, when they finally did leave the cradle of Africa, there were already people in Eurasia to met and greet.  Obviously, the inevitable happened and I can now  count among my ancestors the Neanderthal.

Now I wanted to know more about the Neanderthal.  Who were they?  What did they really look like?

"Neanderthals looked much like modern humans only shorter, more heavily built and much stronger, particularly in the arms and hands. Their skulls show that they had no chin and their foreheads sloped backwards. The brain case was lower but longer housing a slightly larger brain than that of modern humans. As almost exclusively carnivorous, both male and female Neanderthals hunted."  []  Now this is good.  They believed in women's rights!

There are lots of articles out there including the next one about how the Neanderthals looked but then I got side tracked when I read that they may still be alive today.

"If you have a “RED GENE” freckles, light skin, reddish hair, that is a sign.

High intelligence is also a Neanderthal trait. The Neanderthals had large craniums and therefore more brains. They survived through the Ice Ages which required the ability to adapt to hunger and to be able to kill large animals. This meant they had good skills in team work."  []

According to this article, Neanderthal remains are predominately found in Iberian Peninsular lying on the western side of the Pyrenees and on the border between Spain and France.  In other words, Basque country and the Basques are a physically distinct group having a language whose origin is not from any known source.

Now everything I read is controversial but I believe in science and I am sure one day the answers will be more definitive.  In the mean time, it is fun exploring our origins.

~ Becky ~

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