Interviewee: Chris Stringer.
Are Neandertals our ancestors?
On the fossil evidence, sometime in the middle Pleistocene, we might say perhaps 300,000 to 6 or 700,000 years ago, their line of evolution diverged from ours. And the interesting thing is that the mitochondrial DNA that's been recovered from only a handful of Neandertal fossils is consistent with that view. So this mitochondrial DNA \u2013 even though there's only small bits of it \u2013 it suggests that first of all that Neandertals had their own population variation which was comparable with the variation we have today, but it was distinct from our variation. The Neandertals are no closer to Europeans for example today, than they are to say Australians or Africans of today. So they are a distinct lineage. They started to go their own way in the middle Pleistocene, and the DNA would suggest perhaps something like 500,000 years ago, they started to evolve genetically in a distinct way from modern humans.