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.
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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.
The file contains Supplementary Notes, Supplementary Figures S1-S2, Supplementary Tables 1-8 and additional references.
About this article
Nature Communications (2014)