The article was published in September.

The discovery of the first Neanderthal fossil raises questions about their relationship to us. It would take some time before we were able to prove that we interbred with them. There was a lot of human-neanderthal interbreeding.

It has been difficult to nail down where this was happening and the evidence has not been helpful. The problem is that modern humans had a long time period where they could have interbred with Neanderthals. The evidence shows that Asians have more Neanderthal genes than Europeans.

In order to help nail this down, forensic anthropologist Ann Ross of North Carolina State University and graduate student Kamryn Keys collaborated with a paleoanthropologist from Duke University. Their results show that there is an answer to the mystery and that they can use new data and insights from a limited fossil record.

Evidence of Human-Neanderthal Interbreeding: Surprising Results

The outcome far exceeded his expectations, as he admits: "I was like, 'there's no way this is going to work' at the beginning." There were a couple of reasons for this. The samples they were working with were very small. Second, existing and well-defined facial measurements don't capture the quirks of Neanderthal faces.

He says that they went into it because they wanted to look for pattern recognition. The results were amazing.

The Near East was an important place for modern humans and Neanderthals to have sex. It was not known if this area was a region of genetic exchange between humans and Neanderthals or if it was a long-term boundary between humans and Neanderthals. The Near East had been a region of human-neanderthal interbreeding, with those humans carrying Neanderthal genes into Asia, which would account for the higher rates there than in Europe.

It added a different perspective and allowed for a level of granular insight that is very difficult to duplicate with DNA.

She says that the role of DNA analysis in paleoanthropology was significant. There was a change in the discipline. She says that they found that Neanderthals and Denisovans were related. You don't get to look at the actual patterns through DNA. Is it related to the weather? Can you tell me the location? She says that facial analysis has mostly been qualitative. The descriptions have been included.

The Facial Morphology Process and Results

They looked at how similar their fossils were to each other by dividing them by region. The data would be split into two broad clusters if there was no interbreeding. Neanderthals and early modern humans would be on different branches. We would expect to see some geographic structure in those branches.

The 100,000-year-old samples of modern humans in the Near East were the same as the Neanderthals' samples. He says that would be what you would expect if there was hybridity.

Due to the small sample sizes, the findings are not waterproof. I wouldn't go to the bank and say we pinned it down. He says that it is consistent with the genes that point to the Near East as a major location.

The results are exciting, but they are not the only ones.

The fossils have been used by people to say that they look like Neanderthals. This was the first time that large samples of early modern humans have been looked at and compared to Neanderthals.