Re: Neanderthal DNA

Glenn Morton (
Sat, 12 Jul 1997 22:58:25 -0500

At 11:02 PM 7/12/97 -0500, Dick Fischer wrote:

>Anthropologist fall on both sides of that issue. The majority (I believe) use
>one "sapiens" and call the big guys "Neanderthals," which equates to separate
>species consistent with the new report. Now, procreation may not be testable,
>but enough separation in DNA would mean the same thing. Also the presence of
>genetic markers in Neanderthals that might be missing in modern humans would
>also be suggestive of separate species, and vice versa.

John Relethford, an anthropologist who was interviewed for the Science
article says that the Neanderthal results still fall at the far end of
modern human mtDNA, although just barely.

>My guess is that female Homo sapiens might have had a certain desirability
>factor surpassing Neanderthal females thus making them targets. And,
>who knows, maybe big, rugged guys with buns at the base of their skulls
>could have impressed the ladies. But if the report is right, it didn't
>happen, or the occasional offspring led to dead ends, that is, never got
>back into our bloodline.
I think this is terribly sapiens-centric. While learning the chinese
language, I learned a lot of their culture. My teacher told me that when he
went home he took some magazines. The pictures had some of the most
beautiful western models available. His parents and grandparents commented
to him about how ugly they were. As he told me this, he laughed. His
family was surprised that we found such ugly ladies so beautiful. Beauty is
a cultural thing.

Besides, if Neanderthal men found sapiens women beautiful, then Neanderthals
could be in our ancestry and this is still consistent with the results of
the DNA tests. mtDNA is only passed on by women to their offspring. Thus
if Neanderthal men all married sapien women, the mtDNA passed on to the next
generation would be sapiens mtDNA! This result only proves that there is no
direct maternal line from Neandertals to modern men. It does not rule out
Neanderthal ancestry of other sorts.

Remember that Mark Stoneking, one of the authors of this article was
involved in the now totally discredited African Eve human mtDNA view. (Yes
it has been totally discredited. The current date for the common mother of
all homo sapiens is not far from that for the Neanderthal. Consider this:

" Basing his work on conservative
assumptions, Templeton showed that the mtDNA divergence lay not in the
relatively narrow band of time between 166,000 and 249,000 years ago, as had
previously been estimated, but in a broad swath sometime between 191,000 and
772,000 years ago. This time interval embraces the period in which Homo
erectus was spreading out of Africa and across Eurasia--meaning that the
divergence in mtDNA might well have occurred long before the appearance of
modern humans."~Erik Trinkaus and Pat Shipman, The Neandertals, (New York:
Alfred Knopf, 1993), p. 394-396

So, I would suggest that even if Homo sapiens neandethalensis diverged from
us 600,000 years ago, that is not out of line with the mtDNA data for other
divergence data for all of modern humanity.

Also consider,

"A second source of error is the calibration rate.
Stoneking, Bhatia, and Wilson (1986) used a twofold range of
divergence rates 2% to 4%), but the actual calibration points in
thier paper indicate a fivefold range (1.8% to 9.3%), and the work of
others would incidate an even broader range (down to 1.4%; Nei 1985)
When this broader range of calibration rates is used along with the
confidence interval algorithm outlined above, the lower bounds of the
95% confidence intervals of times to coalescence using the data of
Stoneking, Bhatia, and Wilson (1986) go down to as low as 33,000
years (for the 9.3% divergence rate) and the upper bounds go as high
as 675,000 years (for the 1.5% divergence rate)."~Alan R. Templeton,
"The 'Eve" Hypothesis: A Genetic Critique and Reanalysis," American
Anthropologist 95(1): 51-72. p. 58

For other confirmation of this view, see

Jeffrey C. Long, "Human Molecular
Phylogenetics", Annu. Rev. Anthropol, 1993, : 251-272, p. 260


"When I used transversions alone to estimate the
age of Eve, I found that humans had accumulated about one-seventh as many
transversions as had accumulated between us and the chimpanzees. This
meant that the mitochrondrial Eve probably lived between six hundred thousand
and a million years ago."~Christopher Wills, The Runaway Brain, (New York:
Harper Collins, 1993), p. 54-55

There is almost no one in the anthropological community today who will
defend a 200 kyr old mitochondrial Eve. The press though, continues it.

The implications of the old mitochondrial eve are:

"No matter how much leapfrogging the various dates may do in the future,
it seems certain that Neanderthals arose long after the time of the
mitochondrial Eve. And there is no gainsaying the facts that Neanderthals
lived in close proximity to modern-appearing humans in the Middle East and that
there is a gradient from less to more markedly Neanderthal-like features as one
moves from east to west through the European peninsula and from the more remote
times of the Mount Carmel populaitons to the more recent populations of Spy and
La Chapelle-aux-Saintes. These facts make arguments that Neanderthals always
remained genetically distinct from other human groups lose much of their
force."~Christopher Wills, The Runaway Brain, (New York: Harper Collins, 1993),
p. 160

>>Overall, there are very few differences between us and the Neanderthals.
>Compare the skeletons of zebras with horses, yet they are separate species.
>Okay, I know it's a tough issue. I'm not pretending to know what the
>answers here, but there can be no question that the Neanderthals branched
>off from ancestors common to us. At the inception, cross breeding should have
>been possible, but after thousands of years, breeding in isolation, they could
>have become a separate species incapable of producing offspring with Homo
>sapiens. We don't know whether they could have or not, but we now have data
>suggesting they didn't.

As I point out, their branch date might actually be after the branch date
for all humans. Go check out the references I gave, especially Templeton's
article. It brought down the African Eve theory. There is an excellent
account of this in Trinkaus and Shipman's book mentioned above, pp 387-397

>>The Atapuercans who are believed to be the ancestors of the Neanderthals who
>>buried their dead in the Sima de los Huesos in Spain, 800,000 years ago,
>>have brain sizes (ca. 1250 cc) which are only slightly smaller than the
>>modern average, ca. 1370 cc. But we christians won't call them
>>theologically, humans.
>Why wouldn't biological humans be theological humans?

Because it is behavior which marks us as humans not looks, not genetics. You
don't behave like a frog, sticking your tongue out everytime a fly flies by.
You don't live in trees and hoot like a chimp. You behave like a human. If
a group of ugly humans with the same genetic separation as the Neanderthal
has, were to bury his dead with grave offerings, were to build huts like
humans etc, were to make stone tools like primitive humans, then what are
they? If you shot a Neanderthal, whose cranial capacity was larger than most
humans on earth today, I bet you would be tried for murder. Why? Because
they behaved like humans.

Neanderthals did not behave like chimps. Chimps don't build square stone
huts, nor do they make stone tools, carve jewellry, make flutes, or even
leave evidence of a bear cult in the form of carefully and ritually placed
bear skulls. Regardless of their genetic difference or they behaved in a
primitive human fashion.


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