© Ancient Origins
The mysterious history of Neanderthals, and their relationship with the first modern humans eludes scientists, but current research is quickly filling in gaps, showing that Neanderthals were, and continue to be, an integral part of modern humanity. Our prehistoric cousins didn't completely vanish from the earth, as their presence can still be identified within modern DNA. A study published this week in the journal Nature has revealed the highest percentage of Neanderthal DNA in any modern human ever studied.

A jawbone from a man who lived 40,000 years ago reveals that six to nine percent (up to 11 percent) of his genome is Neanderthal, the highest amount ever found in a modern human specimen, reports Discovery News . This amazing find indicates that a Neanderthal was in his family as close as four generations back in his family tree-potentially his Great-Great Grandfather.

Modern individuals of European and Asian heritage have Neanderthal DNA in their genomes. But experts debate when this blending occurred, where, and whether Neanderthals were pressed into extinction by modern humans, or were assimilated through interbreeding, adoption, or raids. Research into ancient genomics and archaeology has shed light into the first humans in Europe, who appear in the record approximately 45,000 years ago. Neanderthals disappeared from the region 5,000 years later. The nature of their relationship is being revealed with every new discovery and breakthrough.

"The genome they sequenced from the samples was incomplete, but it was enough for the scientists to conclude that between 6% and 9% of Oase 1's genome is Neanderthal in origin. People living today have 4% at most," reports National Geographic .

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