The 81st Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (2012)

Vindija Neandertals as evidence for gene flow from early modern humans


Sociology and Anthropology, Illinois State University

Saturday 9:15-9:30, Grand Ballroom II Add to calendar

The Vindija Neandertal remains have played a critical role in discussions on the emergence of modern Eurasians and the possible involvement of Neandertals in that process. Most recently, fragments from Vindija yielded a draft sequence of a Neandertal genome revealing a 1-4% contribution of Neandertals to recent Eurasians. Morphology of the Vindija Neandertals has long been regarded as showing progressive features in a late Neandertal sample, but the interpretation of the meaning of this pattern has varied over time. Although various studies have shown the Vindija pattern is not due to any type of sample bias, that interpretation is still cited. Otherwise the morphology is seen as either reflecting the process of modern human emergence in Eurasia or as just a part of “normal” Neandertal variation. If Vindija does reflect the process of transition to modern humans, the question is how does it reflect this process? We suggest that the Vindija morphology reflects evidence for gene flow from early modern populations into Neandertals. We show how the Vindija cranial and mandibular pattern reflects that process and demonstrate that indications of mixing among stratigraphic levels at the site do not impact biological interpretations of the Vindija sample. This direction of gene flow has not been detected in genetic studies so far. Our interpretation underscores the importance of using both morphological and genetic data in approaching questions of late human evolution.

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