In 2002, a team if archaeologists found the jawbone of an ancient human ancestor that was more than 40,000 years old.
The DNA from the jawbone was analyzed by geneticists and discovered that it belonged to a modern human who had Neanderthal ancestors.
Neanderthals populated Europe until 35,000 years ago, before disappearing at a time when modern human ancestors were spreading across Europe.
The new study reveals that modern Europeans interbred with Neanderthals.
The study was conducted by researchers from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute in collaboration with Harvard Medical School and the Max Planck Institute in Germany.
The scientists detailed their findings in the journal Nature.
David Reich, from Harvard Medical School and one of the lead authors of the study, explained that the only humans that lived in Europe before 45,000 years ago were the Neanderthals.
After 35,000 years ago, Europe was populated solely with modern humans, which is a dramatic transition, according to Reich.
Scientists said that archaeological evidence suggests that modern humans interacted with the Neanderthals when both species lived in Europe at the same time.
The archaeological evidence suggesting this aspect includes different ways of making tools, burial rituals, as well ways of decorating the body.
All these point out the fact that there was a cultural exchange between modern Europeans and Neanderthals.
However, there are very few skeleton remains from that period, Reich said.
The jawbone was discovered in Romania in 2002 and after analyzing it using radiocarbon dating, the scientists determined the bone was 37,000 to 42,000 years old.
Reich said the bone is an amazing discovery and is extremely important archaeological finding.
The jawbone was discovered in a cave called Pestera cu Oase (The Bone Cave) along with another skull.
Because there were no artifacts discovered nearby, the anthropologists did not have any clues about the identity or cultural background of the individuals.
The jawbone had physical features that resembled those of modern humans, but it also had some Neanderthal traits.
This led to the theory that modern Europeans interbred with Neanderthals.
Image Source: irishexaminer