Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

Neanderthals in central Asia and Siberia


Morphological traits typical of Neanderthals began to appear in European hominids at least 400,000 years ago1 and about 150,000 years ago2 in western Asia. After their initial appearance, such traits increased in frequency and the extent to which they are expressed until they disappeared shortly after 30,000 years ago. However, because most fossil hominid remains are fragmentary, it can be difficult or impossible to determine unambiguously whether a fossil is of Neanderthal origin. This limits the ability to determine when and where Neanderthals lived. To determine how far to the east Neanderthals ranged, we determined mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) sequences from hominid remains found in Uzbekistan and in the Altai region of southern Siberia. Here we show that the DNA sequences from these fossils fall within the European Neanderthal mtDNA variation. Thus, the geographic range of Neanderthals is likely to have extended at least 2,000 km further to the east than commonly assumed.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution

Relevant articles

Open Access articles citing this article.

Access options

Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.


All prices are NET prices.

Figure 1: Geographical range of Neanderthals.


  1. Stringer, C. B. & Hublin, J. New age estimates for the Swanscombe hominid, and their significance for human evolution. J. Hum. Evol. 37, 873–877 (1999)

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  2. Grun, R. & Stringer, C. Tabun revisited: revised ESR chronology and new ESR and U-series analyses of dental material from Tabun C1. J. Hum. Evol. 39, 601–612 (2000)

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  3. Debetz, G. The anthropological features of the human skeleton from the cave of Teshik-Tash [in Russian]. Trudy Uzbekist. Fil. Akad. Nauk. 1, 46–49 (1940)

    Google Scholar 

  4. Weidenreich, F. The Paleolithic child from the Teshik-tash Cave in Southern Uzbekistan (Central Asia). Am. J. Phys. Anthropol. 3, 151–162 (1945)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  5. Glantz, M. M. & Ritzman, T. B. A reanalysis of the Neandertal status of the Teshik-Tash child. Am. J. Phys. Anthropol. 38 (suppl.). 100–101 (2004)

  6. Finlayson, C. & Carrion, J. S. Rapid ecological turnover and its impact on Neanderthal and other human populations. Trends Ecol. Evol. 22, 213–222 (2007)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  7. Derevianko, A. P. To the Problem of Neandertal Habitation of Central Asia and Siberia (Institute of Archaeology and Ethnography Press, Novosibirsk, 2007)

    Google Scholar 

  8. Turner, C. G. in Chronostratigraphy of the Paleolithic in North, Central, East Asia and America (ed. Derevianko, A. P.) 239–243 (USSR Academy of Sciences, Novosibirsk, 1990)

    Google Scholar 

  9. Shpakova, E. G. & Derevianko, A. P. The interpretation of Odontological Features of Pleistocene Human Remains from the Altai. Archaeol. Ethnol. Anthropol. Eurasia N 1, 125–138 (2000)

    Google Scholar 

  10. Viola, T. B. et al. in Terra Nostra 2006/2 150 Years of Neanderthal Discoveries 139 (GeoUnion Alfred-Wegner-Stiftung, Berlin, 2006)

    Google Scholar 

  11. Lalueza-Fox, C. et al. Mitochondrial DNA of an Iberian Neandertal suggests a population affinity with other European Neandertals. Curr. Biol. 16, R629–R630 (2006)

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  12. Caramelli, D. et al. A highly divergent mtDNA sequence in a Neandertal individual from Italy. Curr. Biol. 16, R630–R632 (2006)

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  13. Orlando, L. et al. Revisiting Neandertal diversity with a 100,000 year old mtDNA sequence. Curr. Biol. 16, R400–R402 (2006)

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  14. Lalueza-Fox, C. et al. Neandertal evolutionary genetics: mitochondrial DNA data from the Iberian peninsula. Mol. Biol. Evol. 22, 1077–1081 (2005)

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  15. Beauval, C. et al. A late Neandertal femur from Les Rochers-de-Villeneuve, France. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 102, 7085–7090 (2005)

    Article  ADS  CAS  Google Scholar 

  16. Serre, D. et al. No evidence of neandertal mtDNA contribution to early modern humans. PLoS Biol. 2, 313–317 (2004)

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  17. Krings, M. et al. A view of Neandertal genetic diversity. Nature Genet. 26, 144–146 (2000)

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  18. Krings, M. et al. Neandertal DNA sequences and the origin of modern humans. Cell 90, 19–30 (1997)

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  19. Ovchinnikov, I. V. et al. Molecular analysis of Neanderthal DNA from the northern Caucasus. Nature 404, 490–493 (2000)

    Article  ADS  CAS  Google Scholar 

  20. Schmitz, R. W. et al. The Neandertal type site revisited: Interdisciplinary investigations of skeletal remains from the Neander Valley, Germany. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 99, 13342–13347 (2002)

    Article  ADS  CAS  Google Scholar 

  21. Currat, M. & Excoffier, L. Modern humans did not admix with Neanderthals during their range expansion into Europe. PLoS Biol. 2, e421 (2004)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  22. Green, R. E. et al. Analysis of one million base pairs of Neanderthal DNA. Nature 444, 330–336 (2006)

    Article  ADS  CAS  Google Scholar 

  23. Andrews, R. M. et al. Reanalysis and revision of the Cambridge reference sequence for human mitochondrial DNA. Nature Genet. 23, 147 (1999)

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  24. Hofreiter, M., Serre, D., Poinar, H. N., Kuch, M. & Pääbo, S. Ancient DNA. Nature Rev. Genet. 2, 353–359 (2001)

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  25. Caramelli, D. et al. Evidence for a genetic discontinuity between Neandertals and 24,000-year-old anatomically modern Europeans. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 100, 6593–6597 (2003)

    Article  ADS  CAS  Google Scholar 

  26. Hublin, J.-J. in Neandertals and Modern Humans in Western Asia (eds Akazawa, T., Aoki, K. & Bar-Yosef, O.) 295–310 (Plenum, New York, 1998)

    Google Scholar 

  27. Hoffecker, J. F. Desolate Landscapes: Ice-Age settlement in Eastern Europe (Rutgers Univ. Press, New Brunswick, NJ, 2002)

    Google Scholar 

  28. Rohland, N. & Hofreiter, M. Comparison and optimization of ancient DNA extraction. Biotechniques 42, 343–352 (2007)

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  29. Krause, J. et al. Multiplex amplification of the mammoth mitochondrial genome and the evolution of Elephantidae. Nature 439, 724–727 (2006)

    Article  ADS  CAS  Google Scholar 

  30. Stringer, C. & Andrews, P. The Complete World of Human Evolution 156 (Thames & Hudson, London, 2005)

    Google Scholar 

Download references


We thank V. M. Kharitonov for the Teshik Tash fossil samples; A. Briggs, E. Green, M. Hofreiter and C. Lalueza-Fox and members of the Max Planck Institute evolutionary genetics department for helpful comments; to B. Höbner, B. Höffner and A. Weihmann for sequencing; S. Keats for establishing contacts during the initial phase of the project; V. Wiebe for interpreting during our visits to Russia and Uzbekistan; and K. Finstermeier for help with figures. We acknowledge the Russian Academy of Sciences and its Siberian Branch for logistic support, and the Max Planck Society for funding.

Author Contributions A.D. provided Neanderthal samples and palaeontological information; S.P. and D.S. collected the samples; B.V. and J.J.H. provided palaeontological and archaeological information; M.P.R. performed dating; J.K., L.O. and D.S. extracted ancient DNA; J.K. and L.O. amplified and sequenced DNA; J.K. performed the phylogenetic analyses and the statistical analysis in cooperation with K.P.; C.H. coordinated the work in Lyon; S.P. initiated, planned and coordinated the study; J.K. and S.P. wrote the paper.

The Teshik Tash and Okladnikov Neanderthal sequences are deposited in GenBank under accession numbers EU078679 and EU078680, respectively.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to Svante Pääbo.

Ethics declarations

Competing interests

Reprints and permissions information is available at

Supplementary information

Supplementary Information

The file contains Supplementary Notes, Supplementary Figures S1-S2, Supplementary Tables 1-8 and additional references. (PDF 349 kb)

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Krause, J., Orlando, L., Serre, D. et al. Neanderthals in central Asia and Siberia. Nature 449, 902–904 (2007).

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI:

This article is cited by


By submitting a comment you agree to abide by our Terms and Community Guidelines. If you find something abusive or that does not comply with our terms or guidelines please flag it as inappropriate.


Quick links

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing