Skull Discovery Tells a Human-Neanderthal Love Story

By Carl Engelking | January 29, 2015 1:58 pm

The excavation site at Manot Cave in western Galilee. (Credit: Israel Hershkovitz, Ofer Marder & Omry Barzilai)

A 55,000-year-old human skull found within a cave in Israel could be evidence that modern humans and Neanderthals were close to each other. Very close.

Scientists believe anatomical features of the partial skull, found in Manot Cave in western Galilee, indicate modern humans and Neanderthals may have interbred 50,000 to 60,000 years ago in the Middle East. Scientists believe this skull could be one of the missing links between African modern humans and European hominids.

“Manot clearly shows that Neanderthals and modern humans lived side by side in Israel for a long period of time,” co-author Israel Hershkovitz of Tel Aviv University told Discovery News.

An Ancient Love Story

The skull, named “Manot 1” after the cave, is thought to be a female’s and was discovered back in 2008. Since then, scientists have rigorously analyzed Manot 1 and published the results of their investigation Wednesday in the journal Nature. Scientists believe the Manot people could be related to the first modern humans who later colonized Europe.

Genetic and archeological models have previously predicted interbreeding between modern humans and Neanderthals. About four years ago, scientists compared the genomes of five living humans from China, France, Papua New Guinea, southern Africa and western Africa. They found that humans carry, at a minimum, 1-4 percent Neanderthal DNA in our genomes.

Neanderthal remains dating back 50,000 to 65,000 years have also been found at other sites near Manot Cave. Manot 1 is the first recorded evidence that modern humans were living in the same place, at the same time, as Neanderthals.

Speaking to the New York Times, Eric Delson, a paleoanthropologist at Lehman College of the City University of New York, said, “This fossil fits previous predictions, which is a nice rarity in our field.”

Still More to Know

Scientists don’t want to draw too many conclusions from Manot 1 — after all, it’s just one skull. They aren’t sure if Manot 1 is a hybrid between Neaderthals and modern humans, or just an individual anomaly. But whoever Manot 1 was long ago, she was likely among the early generations of humans that left Africa to eventually colonize Europe. That alone is a story worth telling.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Living World, top posts
  • Albert Haberle

    Were there dogs or cats (bones) found within the cave(s)?

    • Come on think!

      Only in the butchering pit.

  • ronnie raygun

    but the rw fascists say that the earth is only 6k years old! science is bunk! man never was a simeon! even though they are now finding evidence of homo sapiens as long as 100k years ago! fk the fascist science haters.

  • Doug

    The best fossils of Neanderthal and Archaic Modern Humans are in Israel, the near-by Kebara, Amud Caves (60K BP) & The Cave of Robbers (Galilee Man 250K BP), all spectacular and well dated Neandethal fossils, and the near-by Skuhl & Qafzeh cave fossils which are amazing and perfect and securely dated skulls of Archaic Modern Human as old as 126,000 years old that contain archaic features that were once thought to represent the Modern human offspring of all those Neanderthals in the area. In this Manot Cave there are also modern Human artifacts that show two cultural phases that are less than 40,000 years old and Neanderthal artifacts as well that are likely to be 60 to match the rest. Now, with this Manot Cave fossil, we are going back to old ideas that were proven wrong with better dates and understanding of Skuhl & Qafzeh skulls and by the strongly defined model in Israel of many distinct occupation phases in these caves that DO NOT overlap. Is this enough evidence to overturn all this great work? They did not date the fossil itself, but the surrounding strata using uranium thorium which is not very accurate especially in caves that have been sealed for a time. The Manot skull was also on a shelf above the cave floor showing it could have been moved or owned by one or more of the 6 other phases of non-overlapping occupations of both Neanderthal and Modern Human in that cave and other caves near by. It is suspicious that this science is from another Nature publication that is loosing legitimacy as a peer reviewed journal because of its monthly pandering to the Interbreeding (sex hype power trip) theory that has been shot down to the ground in less questionable journals that have shown Neanderthals could have been gone from Europe before we arrived, check the actual dates in the articles, not the magazine versions that are dumbed down for the public. And shot down because of the many great science research in Gene and PNAS that has shown the DNA remnants of Neanderthal in Europeans but not Sub-Saharan Africans is more likely caused by diverse groups of modern Humans in Africa which better supports our understanding of our uniqueness and ability to survive; our ability to create social alliances based in abstractions of resource sharing trade and shared language connections that kept groups united even after repetitions of centuries long geographic separations caused by glacial melt patterns in Ethiopia and Kenya. No, the dating of this skull is just too convenient in its serving of those who seek the status of high-ranking experts in the publics perception instead of seeking an understanding who we really are so we can better overcome obstacles facing us today. Neanderthal are very different and not like us even though the reconstruction artist tend to stretch and contort a human face onto their massive skulls. An average Neanderthal can engulf an average human face in its mouth and they can fit an entire human jaw inside their jaw with room to spare. Picture that kissy kissy, then come back to reality.

  • Leanne Waring

    Good article! I’m looking forward to the report! (Also, archaeological is spelt wrong. Not trying to be nit picky, but just thought it worth a mention?)


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