Discovery of a Hybrid Child With Neanderthal and Modern Human DNA Rewrites History

By: Beth Moreton | Published: May 12, 2024

For centuries, it had been thought that it was impossible for humans and Neanderthals to breed together.

However, the discovery of a child with Neanderthal and modern human DNA has proved centuries worth of thinking wrong. It suggests that many humans today will have a small percentage of Neanderthal DNA. 

Neanderthals and Modern Humans Coexisted in Europe

It is believed that Neanderthals and modern humans coexisted in Europe for at least 10,000 years. 

A Neanderthal. He has grey hair and a beard, and his hands are clasped together.

Source: Jakub Halun/Wikimedia Commons

This period is known as the Middle-to-Upper Paleolithic transition, and it suggests that modern humans either displaced or outcompeted Neanderthals for resources. 

Neanderthals and Modern Humans Have a Shared Ancestor

Research has discovered that Neanderthals and modern humans have a shared ancestor from over 600,000 years ago. 

A Neanderthal child. He has long brown hair and is looking up at an old Neanderthal man with grey hair and a beard with his hands clasped together.

Source: Jakub Halun/Wikimedia Commons

This link has given a deeper understanding of human evolution and our links to different lineages, which only complicates our backstory and history. 

The Child Was Buried Over 24,000 Years Ago

The child that was discovered is believed to be male and to have been around four years old when he died.

The site where the Lapedo Child was found. Some bones and rocks can be seen.

Source: @Kastanienzweig/X

He was buried in a burial pit in the Lapedo Valley in Portugal, and he is believed to have been buried around 24,500 years ago. 

The Lapedo Child

The child is known as the Lapedo Child, as he was found in the Lapedo Valley in 1998. When he was discovered, scientists found he had Neanderthal and modern human DNA.

A sketch of the Lapedo Child. The child is lying down and wrapped in a blanket. Two people are kneeling down beside him. To the right is a sketch of his bone structure, which has a curved spine and long feet.

Source: @RitaMartins_Art/X

Until this point, it was believed that modern humans had evolved in East Africa before they spread across Eurasia and replaced the archaic hominids that lived there, including Neanderthals. 

The Structure of the Lapedo Child

The bone structure and features of the Lapedo Child, without even testing the DNA, show the interbreeding between Neanderthals and modern humans.

The bone structure of the Lapedo Child. He has a curved spine and long feet.

Source: @HailAndLouro/X

The child had the chin and inner ear of a modern human and the stocky frame and limbs of a Neanderthal. 


Most Europeans Have Neanderthal DNA

The Lapedo Child further proves that Neanderthals and modern humans have interbred for thousands of years.

A Neanderthal sitting by some rocks holding an animal it has caught.

Source: Neanderthal-Museum/Wikimedia Commons

This is so much so that Neanderthal DNA is still prevalent in society today, especially among Europeans, who are believed to have between 1% and 4% of Neanderthal DNA. 


Neanderthals Bred With Many Forms of Humans

The Lapedo Child further proves that Neanderthals have been breeding with many forms of humans for thousands of years. The original study of the child points toward him being a result of multiple admixed populations. 

A Neanderthal. He has long brown hair, a long face and a large nose. His arms are crossed across his chest.

Source: Neanderthal-Museum/Wikimedia Commons

This means that this child wasn’t just a one-off and that Neanderthals and humans had been interbreeding long before him, which is why many Europeans still have Neanderthal DNA. 


Some Believed the Lapedo Child Was an Oddly Shaped Human

Despite later evidence suggesting otherwise, some researchers believed that the Lapedo Child wasn’t a mix between Neanderthals and humans.

A recreation of what the Lapedo Child would have looked like. He has long brown hair, wide green eyes, a small nose and a mouth protruding slightly outward.

Source: @uchroniaUtopia/X

Instead, they believed that the Lapedo Child was actually just an oddly shaped human until further testing proved otherwise. 


The Admixture Theory

The admixture theory is a theory that modern humans have interbred with other archaic forms, such as Neanderthals.

A statue of a Neanderthal. He is slightly hunched over and has long hair and some material tied around his waist.

Source: Abraham/Wikimedia Commons

This theory was finally proved in 2010 when researchers found that Neanderthal DNA existed in modern humans, which helped to prove that the Lapedo Child was a mix between Neanderthals and modern humans. 


Africans Have No Neanderthal DNA

Modern humans originated in Africa, but despite many humans today having some Neanderthal DNA, this doesn’t apply to Africans.

An old map of Africa.

Source: Unknown Author/Wikimedia Commons

However, despite many Eurasians having between 1% and 4% of Neanderthal DNA, Africans have little or no signs of Neanderthal DNA. 


The Lapedo Child Has Rewritten History

The discovery of the Lapedo Child and the testing of his DNA has completely rewritten history.

A mold of the Lapedo Child.

Source: @MU_Peter/X

While it was long believed impossible for modern humans to have bred with any other archaic form, including Neanderthals, the Lapedo Child is further evidence that Neanderthals and modern humans had bred and only serves to give a deeper and slightly more complicated understanding of our evolution.