You never know where Neanderthals are going to turn up next. Now a study hints at interbreeding between Neanderthals and ancient Chinese.1
Not all the characteristics that distinguish various people groups are visible on the body surface like brow ridges, skin tones, or eye shapes. Some differences, such as varying proportions and angles in the inner ear’s semicircular canals, are hidden. High-resolution CT scans of fossil skulls can measure these canals and map their relative positions.
The study of human evolution has always been messy, and these findings just make it all the messier.
The discovery last year of an East Asian human fossil that is clearly not Neanderthal yet has a Neanderthal-like inner ear has thrown secular anthropologists into confusion. “The study of human evolution has always been messy, and these findings just make it all the messier,” says paleoanthropologist Erik Trinkaus. “The later phases of human evolution were more of a labyrinth of biology and peoples than simple lines on maps would suggest.”
This “labyrinth of biology and peoples” makes sense in light of biblical history, if all humans shared the same eight ancestors on the Ark, who had both similarities and differences. After Noah’s descendants dispersed from the Tower of Babel, some isolated groups developed distinctive traits. Since all were related, traits that seem out of place in their descendants are no surprise.