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One of the most frequently debated questions in paleoanthropology concerns the arrival in Europe of our species, Homo Sapiens, anatomically modern humans (AMHs), and the fate of the humans who lived in this territory prior to their arrival, the Neanderthals.

For many decades there were two different responses to this question: according to one point of view the Neanderthals did not really disappear, but were incorporated into the new incoming modern humans. An opposing model has claimed that there is great discontinuity between Neanderthals and modern humans, and relates the demise of the Neanderthals to the territorial expansion of anatomically modern humans from Africa through the Near East.

Anthropologist and research director Silvana Condemi (University of Marseille), Aurélien Mounier (University of Cambridge), Paolo Giunti (Istituto Italiano di Preistoria e Protostoria, Firenze), Martina Lari and David Caramelli (University of Florence) conducted a study of the human remains found in 1957 in Middle Paleolithic Riparo Mezzena, a rock-shelter in the Monti Lessini (Verona, Italy). It led to the identification of the only genetically typed Neanderthal of the Italian peninsula and has confirmed through dating that it belongs to a late Neanderthal. They examined the mandible and found that the chin region was similar to that of other late Neanderthals which display a much more modern morphology. This change in morphology among late Neanderthals supports the hypothesis of anatomical change of late Neanderthals and the hypothesis of a certain degree of interbreeding with AMHs that, as the dating shows, was already present in the European territory 30,000 years ago. If the theory proves to be correct, this Venitian would be the first known direct hybrid of Homo Neanderthalensis and Homo Sapiens.




Article Citation: Condemi S, Mounier A, Giunti P, Lari M, Caramelli D, et al. (2013) Possible Interbreeding in Late Italian Neanderthals? New Data from the Mezzena Jaw (Monti Lessini, Verona, Italy). PLoS ONE 8(3): e59781. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0059781

Editor: David Frayer, University of Kansas, United States of America

Received: October 30, 2012; Accepted: February 18, 2013; Published: March 27, 2013

Copyright: © 2013 Condemi et al. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.