The clues of an ancient mystery lie scattered among the A’s, C’s, G’s and T’s of your DNA, like a trail of crumbs left behind by your ancestors long ago. As they emerged from their African homeland around 50,000 years ago to populate the world, they encountered a very different place. We are the only human species alive today, but at that time there were at least two others stalking the tundra and forests of Eurasia: the Neanderthals, and the Denisovans. You’ve probably heard of Neanderthals – our distant cousins, who share an ancestor with us in Africa around 600,000 years ago. The Denisovans were their Asian neighbors.

When these two species met our modern human ancestors in Eurasia, there would ultimately be only one winner left alive - us. However, genetic studies of ancient Neanderthal and Denisovan bones from caves in Croatia, Siberia, and other locations have revealed a surprising story. Before they went extinct, our Neanderthal and Denisovan cousins got to know us pretty well…so well, in fact, that they had children together. In Neanderthal, you’ll discover whether you had inherited aspects of your musculature, skin color, adaptation to high altitude. Perhaps your ability to fight off Eurasian pathogens was from a Denisovan?

Your Neanderthal ancestry is the part of you with the deepest roots in Eurasia. It is your deepest non-African history, and the most ancient reflection of our species’ adventurous migratory spirit present in us today (with the exception of those with Denisovan ancestry, another human ancestor which is just as ancient). Due to its antiquity, your Neanderthal genetic variation may hold keys to deep local adaptations which allowed our species to survive and flourish in northern climates.

For another description on the relationship between Neanderthals and Modern Humans, watch this Ted Talk: https://www.ted.com/talks/svante_paeaebo_dna_clues_to_our_inner_neanderthal/transcript#t-823748

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