It looks like ancient humans had an eye, or at least an ear, for their neanderthal counterparts. A new discovery tosses a wrench into theories about interbreeding, human origins and migration patterns. It sounds like a small discovery, but the implications for history could be significant.

Plus, who doesn’t want a little caveman blood? The discovery centers around the inner-ear formation of neanderthals. For decades, scientists thought the formation was unique to them. A re-examination of a fossilized skull of an ancient human shows the inner formation a pretty close match with that of a neanderthal. The skull that was examined was excavated at a site in northern China in the 1970s.

The new research gives more credence to the theories of inter-breeding between ancient humans and neanderthals. It also blurs the picture of late-stage human evolution because of the vast geographic migrations and differing biologies. The human origin story is definitely not set in the realm of science.

Those looking for the full study can wait for it to appear in the next issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Scientists used a micro-CT scan to re-examine the skull. Researchers were thinking that the temporal labyrinth would be like the one you would find in us today. Instead, they got a picture similar to neanderthals.

neanderthal ct scan

The formation is critical because it has been used as a marker in the past to differentiate between archaic and modern humans with neanderthals. It looks like instead that definitive contact occurred between the two species. Most theories have the contact occurring between neanderthals in Eurasia and ancient humans in China.

More research is needed to test the broader implications of the findings, but for now expect more theories to start popping up. And they say science isn’t fun.


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