The extinction and competition hypotheses for the demise of the Neanderthals, notably suggested by interdisciplinary scientist and author Jared Diamond, hinge on the idea that humans were more advanced than Neanderthals. Commonly claimed are the following: that humans had more communicative abilities, were more efficient hunters, had superior weaponry, ate a broader diet, and had more extensive social networks.
But the archaeological record doesn’t back any of those claims, the authors found.
In 2010, scientists discovered that between one and four percent of the DNA of modern humans living outside of Africa is derived from Neanderthals, providing clear evidence that the two species were interbreeding to some extent tens of thousands of years ago. In January of this year, Benjamin Vernot and Joshua Akey of the University of Washington published a paper in Science that corroborated those results. They found that a fifth of Neanderthals’ genetic code lives on within our species as a whole.
As someone who discovered last year that they were 3% Neanderthal, and given the now very low population estimates for Neanderthals, this strikes me as completely plausible. Maybe Neanderthals didn’t die out so much as marry into the family. In other words, we are Neanderthals. (At least those of us who aren’t from recent African stock are.)