BERLIN — New research finds that humans and Neanderthals may have coexisted in Europe for more than 5,000 years, providing ample time for the two species to meet and mix.
Using new carbon dating techniques and mathematical models, researchers examined about 200 samples found at 40 sites from Spain to Russia, according to a study published Wednesday in the journal Nature. They concluded with a high probability that pockets of Neanderthal culture survived until between 41,030 and 39,260 years ago.
Although this puts the disappearance of Neanderthals earlier than some scientists previously thought, the findings support the idea that they lived alongside humans, who arrived in Europe about 45,000-43,000 years ago.
While it's known that Neanderthal genes have survived in the DNA of many modern humans to this day, suggesting that at least some interbreeding took place, scientists are still unclear about the extent of their contact and the reasons why Neanderthals vanished.