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Photo gallery for The Neanderthal genome
Only recently has it become possible to sequence Neanderthal genes. Scientists were able to obtain DNA from the remains of three Neanderthal women and sequence it. They then proceeded to compare the Neanderthal genome with five different modern people and have arrived at evidence of genetic influences on us.
We now have evidence for some gene flow from Neanderthals to all non-Africans. The most surprising part is that these same genes were not only found in a European, but also in a Han Chinese and a person from Papua, New Guinea.
The resulting hypothesis is that Neanderthal genes entered the modern human population not too long after our direct modern human forebears had migrated out of Africa some 150,000 to 100,000 years ago, probably in the Middle East and before modern humans conquered the entire rest of the world outside Africa, supplanting all other, older human forms still living in Asia and possibly elsewhere, like Homo erectus or the recently discovered Homo floresiensis (the "hobbits").
This article describes the results. It also contains 8 short videos with statements by the involved scientists. If you are interested, also click on the main links on that page: Background, Methodology, etc.