Being human.

Author:Kean, Sam
Position:WORKS IN PROGRESS - Brief article

Scientists have argued about what drove the Neanderthals into extinction since the day of their discovery in the 1850s. The abundance of theories for their demise--climate change, disease, starvation, war with humankind--hints that nobody knows anything for sure. Recently, however, DNA testing has upended the whole argument: it turns out that Neanderthals didn't quite go extinct after all.

The DNA sequence of Neanderthals, published in 2010, revealed that all people of European and Asian descent have from one to four percent Neanderthal DNA inside them. That's roughly equivalent to the amount of DNA you inherited from each great-great-great-grandparent. (Go back five generations in your family tree, and you might as well have a Neanderthal there.) Geneticists don't know everything this DNA does, but some of it probably fortified humans against new diseases as they spread across the globe.

That surprise was just the start. Also in 2010, geneticists announced the discovery of a small girl's knucklebone inside the Denisova cave in Siberia. The bone looked...

To continue reading