Monday, March 21, 2016

Oldest Ever Human DNA Sample May Rewrite Evolutionary Tree

New Scientist is reporting a team of archaeologists and geneticists from the Max Planck Institute in Germany have successfully sequenced the oldest sample to date of human DNA.  The sample in question comes from a person who lived in Spain over 430,000 years ago. This result astonished the scientists involved, who believed the bones to be from a Neanderthal that lived approximately 100,000 years ago.   The DNA revealed traits found in Neanderthals as well as their more recently discovered cousins, the Denisovans.  Sequencing the DNA has helped scientists better pinpoint the timeframe when Neanderthals and Denisovans diverged as species to be as distant as 765,000 years. This is significantly farther back than prior estimates and is causing researchers to closely reexamine the human evolutionary tree.

More information on the discovery here at New Scientist.

Even though modern humans are not directly evolved from Neanderthal populations like this early human, all modern non-African populations share some DNA with Neanderthals and Denisovans due to interbreeding of Neanderthal and modern human populations.  At commercial DNA kits such as the AncestryDNA test and FamilyTreeDNA test can be analyzed and compared to ancient Neanderthal samples similar to this most recent find.  Its a free service, so if you already have a DNA test from one of the major testing companies, consider signing up at so you can get even more information from your test.


  1. DNA testing services has helped various departments including archaeology. It is good that we are getting closer to our past.

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