People from Tuscany are most similar to Neanderthals

People from Tuscany are most similar to Neanderthals


In his blog, John Hawks, Professor of Anthropology at the University of Wisconsin, discusses the level of introgression (i.e. the introduction of genes from the gene pool of one species into that of another during hybridization) of Neanderthal genes into modern human populations, using data from the 1000 Genomes Project.

The 1000 Genomes Project is the first project to sequence the genomes of a large number of people, to provide a comprehensive resource on human genetic variation.  It aims to investigate relationship between genotype (genetic makeup) and phenotype (observable characteristics or traits).  The African genomes in the 1000 Genomes sample include the Yoruba from Nigeria and the Luhya from Kenya.  The Asian populations sampled are Japanese and Chinese, including people of Han Chinese ethnicity in Beijing and southern China.  The European ancestry samples include British, Tuscan, Spanish and Finnish.

In a series of histograms (graphs showing the distribution of genome and population data), Hawks shows that Asian and European genomes have significantly more Neanderthal DNA than African genomes.  The averages for Asian and European samples are around 3% higher than the average for African samples.  Whatever gave Africans some degree of similarity to Neanderthals, non-Africans seem to have received around 3% more of it.

Europeans average a bit more Neanderthal DNA than Asians, showing that Europeans probably mixed with Neanderthals as they moved into Europe, adding a secondary mix of Neanderthal DNA into their genome beyond the primary mix shared by their respective ancestors.

The differences in Neanderthal admixture between populations within regions is more interesting.  For example, Tuscans have the highest level of Neanderthal similarity of any of the 1000 Genomes Project samples. They have around a half-percent more Neanderthal similarity than the British or the Finnish.  This could be show a north-south geographical difference in Neanderthal ancestry, but later population movements in Europe probably masked a significant part of the Upper Paleolithic gene pool. However, the persistence through time of extra Neanderthal ancestry in southern Europe needs further study.

Neanderthal Sites and Migration Routes of Modern Humans into Europe 40,000 years ago
Neanderthal Sites and Migration Routes of Modern Humans into Europe 40,000 years ago

Populations within East Asia also show differences in Neanderthal similarity.  North China has a bit more Neanderthal, on average, than South China according to the samples, though all are identified as ethnic Han Chinese.

In Africa, the Yoruba of Nigeria have substantially more Neanderthal similarity than the Luhya of Kenya.  This is puzzling, because the geographic location of the Luhya in East Africa seems better placed for Neanderthal similarity to appear, whether through ancient population structure or through the backmigration into Africa of Neanderthal descendants.  Instead, the Yoruba in West Africa are the recipients of Neanderthal genes.  Much more is still to be learnt about ancient African population structures by using Neanderthal-similar regions of the genome, including ancient populations that do not appear in archaeology.




  1. United States I guess descendents of early inhabitants of Europe, like etruscan, but also basques & celts, that practiced endogamy due to living in mountains, and other insolated enviroments, far from big cities must have higher levels of neanderthal genes. For example, in Spain the invading armies (morish, roman, etc ), always stay in the plains, they did not aventure into the hills. Same in Scotland and Ireland, the brits and others invaders armies never aventured into the hills.

  2. United States Fascinating, so basically we can conclude that all non-Africans have traces of Neanderthal DNA in their genomes, that Europeans average a bit more than Asians, Native Americans, Australian Aborigines, and other non-Africans, and that out of Europeans, southern Europeans average a bit more. As someone of largely Italian extraction (including a bit of Tuscan), this is quite interesting to me. I’ve also read that the somewhat higher levels of Neolithic ancestry in southern Europe could also be a factor in slightly higher admixture there(considering that Neolithic migrants came out of the Near East, also an area where Neanderthals lived before fully modern humans from Africa arrived on the scene). Neolithic ancestry is said to be highest in places like Sicily/southern Italy (a big part of my ancestry) and the southern Balkans (i.e. Greece, Albania, Bulgaria, etc.).

    In any event, even before DNA evidence confirmed some interbreeding with Neanderthals, I suspected that those thousands of years of co-existing with Cro-Magnons in Europe must have had some further impact on the genetic compositions of European and Middle Eastern populations, in addition to the encounters in the Middle East before humans spread outward to Asia, Australia, and the Americas which gave rise to Neanderthal DNA in those human populations.

    Really interesting stuff though, no doubt. The story of human origins becomes more fascinating by the day, who we are and where we come from. It would certainly turn conventional wisdom on its head to consider that Neanderthal genes could have played a pivotal role in such human innovations in the creative fields of art, architecture, science, and philosophy, considering the negative view of Neanderthals that predominated throughout most of history. The Italian Renaissance was a largely Tuscan phenomenon to boot. Not that Neanderthal genes were necessarily the root cause, but it makes for an interesting coincidence I think.

  3. United States I just wonder, of all the people that underwent DNA testing, is there anybody with more than 6% neanderthal genes?

    • United States My dad is from the mountains of Futani, Italy and we always said must have a great deal of Neanderthal is him. He has thick bone structure, short and stocky unlike many people I see. My grandmother also was built like him. Neanderthals still live in the mountains and hills in southern

  4. Italy @Hahaha
    Or how the hell your nick is, take it easy, you can count Tuscans in Usa over an hand since they almost never emigrated. Especially in the Us of A.

  5. United States Neanderthals had Large eyes, beefy builds and possibly hairy bodies. Sounds a lot like southern Europe to me! Even still, there are many coincidences just as Al stated above between Europe and Neanderthal DNA. Check out any map of Blood type A and compare it to the extent of Neanderthal habitation in Eurasia. Shocking!

    • Italy Like S.Europe? LOL
      Are you another american who relies on stereotypes and pics from Internet?
      Take a trip dude.

    • Canada Sounds like a typical American racist, Neanderthals also had pale skin and red hair. His stereotyping is laughable. He’s obviously never heard of Monica Belluci.

  6. United States You’re all idiots…Tuscany was the most refined, powerful duchy in Europe. It was the center of art, banking, and trade. Tuscany was a major power broker in Europe, influencing kings and popes alike. The Netherlands was the only northern European power that rivaled Tuscany in art, culture, and greatness…

  7. United States I’m of 100% European background, and I’m 1/4 Tuscan. My Tuscan side was from the Provinces of Liovrno, Lucca, and Massa-Carrara. My recent DNA analysis shows that in total I’m 3.00% Neanderthal, considerably higher than most people of European descent.

  8. United States I am Tuscan and American. We do exist. Different genetic testing sites have me at very different levels of Neanderthal. Three testing companies came out with very different results, including Genographic. All stated I was indeed Tuscan. Well, I knew that. I wouldn’t take a study that may have left out Germany, France and Arabia, very seriously. Think of the Neander Valley and how much mixing happened in the Arabian peninsula. The article doesn’t mention these important sites or testing people there.

  9. Turkey Why are some Tuscans and Italians annoyed at this Neanderthal suggestion? Being from the Middle East, and originally from South East Europe, I probably have more Neanderthal genes than most people on earth, and that makes me only cheerful and fascinated.

    Well, I actually know the reason for the annoyance. That’s because we see Neanderthals as these only partially human savage brutes, as a different and mentally inferior species even though many evolutionary scientists have already added them into our very own species, the so-called Homo Sapiens, as “Homo Sapiens Neanderthalensis”. No, I don’t buy that they were any inferior than us. I have so far seen no evidence that the Neanderthals were less intelligent than the population spreading out of East Africa and the Arabian Peninsula.

    You may ask: If they were so intelligent and did not have any evolutionary disadvantage, then why did they impart so slight an amount of genes to future populations and got extinct apart from that? Well, possibly they were fewer in numbers than the new population (whom we call Homo Sapiens Sapiens) right at the beginning. More possibly they preferred to produce less offspring due to their lifestyle and got a smaller and smaller fraction of the overall human population over millenia. Even if they got fewer in numbers due to wars with the so-called Homo Sapiens Sapiens of probable East African origin or due to diseases coming from these East Africans, to which they were not very immune (just as later would happen to Native Americans in contact with Europeans), this does not show that they were an intellectually inferior “species”. If that proved they were mentally inferior and therefore only partially human, then we would have to believe that Native Americans or Australian Aborigines were an inferior species to the Europeans too, which no sane person would claim (yes, some dangerously insane racists do claim that, especially regarding the Native Australians).

    Moreover, I suspect that we may turn out to be much more Neanderthal than we currently think and further studies may prove that in the coming decades.

    • Italy @Uğur Dinç

      Nobody here is annoyed at that, on the opposite especially me. Being a Neandhertal also means that you are a very ancient European. Probably many people think that being Neanderthal you are an idiot or a cavemen while it has obviously nothing to do with that. LOL

      I also think many people are annoyed at Americans and their ignorance on whatever is not from Usa. They rely on Hollywood movies like brainwashed morons most of the time.

      • Reserved I really was not gonna reply, but somebody needs to set you straight. When you group all Americans into one jumble of idiots you only come off as being just as ignorant and absent minded. The only replies on here are usually from teenagers, and at that teenagers that aren’t doing homework. Your getting a very small sample and making extreme conclusions based on that sample or what you’ve read on the internet. Sounds a little bit like what you were condemning? Furthermore there is a lot of information and scientific conclusions being left out of this one article, like Denisovans (Neanderthal cousin) and Northern Chinese populations or that or Papua New Guinea similarity which often has higher percentages of similarity than Europeans. This goes for a few, stop jumping to conclusions and read more than one ariticle. How about lose the ridiculous amount of pride for one region in history because your great great great grandpa was from there, live in the moment and you might actually find you’ll be much happier.

        • United States People around the world have a right to condemn Americans. Your comment is preachy and unnecessary. Americans are not victims. Congratulations on some articles you seem to have read on this topic. Condemning people for cherishing their heritage is a white priveledge. Your final sentence was rhetoric and dribble.

  10. United Kingdom My Grandfather came from Salerno, and my other Grandfather was Irish, we also have Scottish and French. So if we have all that mixed blood I must have Neanderthal ancestry? Plus I love everything about Italy especially the woman, wine, and weather! The problem is I always end up with blonde chicks! I have a good collection of authenticated Neanderthal stone tools, all I need now is a nice looking Italian chick and a nice pad on a beach in Tuscany and I will be happy.

  11. Israel Tuscans have a higher degree of Neanderthal genes because the Neanderthals, like anyone else fortunate enough to have made it to Tuscany, had the good sense to appreciate the beauty of the region and decided to never leave. More proof that the Neanderthals are more intelligent than researchers have given them credit for!

  12. Reserved The Celtic Welsh of Britain commonly have features of the Neanderthal such as being shorter on average, many men having big bones and wide hairy bodies. Also since the Madeira, Canary and Azores Islands may have been inhabited by Neanderthal and if so might have been the last place they lived I wonder if anyone has looked in deeper strata in caves there. The Russians/Soviet Union announced in 1979 that one of their submarines found the ruins of buildings in the coastal shelf around the Madeira islands. This find like the Ice Age stone age city found a few years ago on the Ocean shelf off of Mumbai (Bombay) India indicates more civilization in the Ice Age than is accepted by Academia. Oddly no Western scientists have gone to look at this Madeira ocean site; closed minded folk. All the psychics talking about past lives in Atlantis has put off these scientists. But Malta shows signs of having a stone age civilization during the Ice Age. A scientist dated a Malta cave full of carefully stacked skeletons at about 7 thousand years old but a couple of men went to the British lab the scientist had used to date the bones and the lab said that the results were an age of over 12,000 years for the bones. This scientist due to his skeptical bias about Ice Age civilization lied in print. A year or two ago a large European fishing boat with advanced sonar saw the readout of a large pyramid on the coastal shelf around the Madeira island. The Portuguese government then said that it was a natural feature but then immediately declared that area for the first time to be a military zone with civilian boats not allowed in. It’s not just scientists being closed minded about Ice Age civilization; our shadow government of the cabal of super rich banking families of the Western world want the population ignorant of such things. I mention this Ice Age civilization bit because I think that these islands off of Europe which were much bigger during the Ice Age were probably an area where the mostly Celtic people on these islands probably had a higher per cent of Neanderthal genes and that helped produce an early civilization. Likewise the five mile long Ice Age city off of Mumbai in India probably had people with more Denisovan and Neanderthal genes mixed with the sapiens genes and that may have resulted in a combination of genes for an early urban culture.
    Neanderthal had heads that went further back in the visual and cerebellum areas of the back of the brain. Pharaoh Ikhnaton and Queen Nefertiti are always depicted as having heads that went much further back in the back head as well as their probable son King Tut. The pre-Semitic people of North Africa the Berber have part Celtic ancestry. Maybe the Pharaoh and Queen had Celtic ancestry mixed with Neanderthal genes for a larger visual area of the brain. Iknaton’s palace showed remarkable art and he and his Queen were reputed to be psychic but inbreeding in his family may explain his mentally unbalanced religious fanaticism and religious monomania. Perhaps sapiens high forehead of larger fore-brain for abstract reasoning plus the Neanderthal larger visual brain area for higher visual abilities produced a culture flowering in the Stone Age. This might explain the excellent cave art in France not too many thousands of years ago after the death of the last Neanderthal.

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