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New evidence suggests that the time humans and Neanderthals interbred was between 50,000 and 60,000 years ago, and that modern humans reached northern portions of Eurasia earlier than thought.

A 45,000-year-old Siberian thighbone has been the center of much conversation and a lot of breakthrough in the science community in recent days. New research unveiled more detailed information on the interbreeding, and migration of modern humans, giving scientists a clearer picture into just how we got where we are today.

Qiaomei Fu, who is a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard Medical School, was the first author of the paper describing the research, which was released today. She went on to note that the thighbone sample had a long road before it made it to Harvard, or even landed in her hands.

The first official stop for the eroding thighbone was Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Germany. Carbon dating and molecular analysis were just a couple of the ways that the sample went from eroded, and damaged human remains to major scientific breakthrough. Thanks to the technology in those labs and the research of this team – it was found that the thighbone sample was from a person who lived 45,000 years ago. Additionally, it was determined that the diet of said individual was hardly what you, or I would eat today. In fact, the diet of the individual was plants or plant eaters and aquatic life – including fish.

The scientists noted that the most impressive thing about this sample was the preservation of the DNA, which allowed the scientists to retrieve a high-quality genome sequence. That sequence brought to light the fact that the bone did in fact come from a modern human, and whose remains are the oldest that have ever been found and carbon-dated outside of Africa and the Middle East, where remains like this are commonly found.

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That led scientists to make the determination that the remains are from the most ancient individual remain that has been found outside the area, and suggests new details regarding the travel of these individuals. The report notes a split that occurred between the groups of people that were living during this time frame.

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Additionally, this breakthrough shows that the slow mutation rate that was previously thought to be incorrect, was actually correct, as it relates to the mutation rate of humans and how they changed and developed over the years. These dates, according to the researchers, will completely change the way scientists evaluate key dates in human history, and in fact, could rewrite some of the previously thought record books.

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