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Knoxville – A University of Tennessee anthropologist has found new evidence that Neanderthals and biologically modern humans were not different species, but evolved together and probably interbred.

Dr. Andrew Kramer said he found his evidence in the Middle East.

“We looked at some fossils from that area, because it-s a connecting point between three continents, Africa, Europe and Asia,” Kramer said. “And only in the Middle East do we have any overlap between fossilized bones of what-s called Neanderthals and modern humans.”

Kramer analyzed skulls dated to 60,000 years before Neanderthals disappeared from Europe. The samples contained fossils previously identified as Neanderthal and modern human.

“We did this analysis of the skulls, and it turns out that there was no clear pattern of Neanderthal and modern human fossils,” Kramer said. “What that suggested to us was interbreeding between the groups.”

Kramer said this evidence adds weight to a theory of multi-regionalism, in which an early migration of humans spread around the world one to two million years ago, and those populations interbred with more biologically modern humans as they migrated out of Africa two hundred thousand years ago.