A Neanderthal skeleton which was first found in an Italian cave in the year 1993 has provided scientist with one of the oldest samples of Neanderthal DNA. (The oldest sets are said to be 200,000 years old, with DNA of its relatives dating back even longer at 400,000 years.)
Sadly, the DNA found in the skeleton had degenerated, hardly providing scientists a complete genome usable with presenttechnology. They believe though that the next generation will be privy to new technology capable of working with and “could provide important results on the Neanderthal genome,” study co-author David Caramelli, a molecular anthropologist at the University of Florence in Italy, told Live Science.
The skeleton was collected from the caves of Altamura, Italy. The skeleton is still intact, which is the first time ever for a human ancestor. It is the closest relative of modern humans who lived in Europe and Asia but completely disappeared 40,000 years ago.
The skeleton, which is believed to be of a Neanderthal, has characteristics that differ from what have already been established such as its brow ridges right above the eyes appearing to be larger than a normal Neanderthal skull. The back of the skull and shoulder blades appear as what scientist would have anticipated.
Fabio Di Vincenzo, a paleoanthropologist at Sapienza University of Rome and one of the leading researchers assumes that their findings on the skeleton’s DNA will show them a peek of what life was like in the earliest days and how Neanderthals went through stages of change through time.
“We have a nearly complete human fossil skeleton to describe and study in detail. It is a dream,” Di Vincenzo stated. “His morphology offers a rare glimpse on the earliest phase of the evolutionary history of Neanderthals and on one of the most crucial events in human evolution. He can help us better understand when — and, in particular, how — Neanderthals evolved.”