Saturday, October 07, 2006

Neanderthal update Neanderthal Man
As a boy in Sweden, Svante Paabo read everything he could about ancient civilizations. After powerful North Sea storms uprooted trees, he begged his parents to take him to archaeological sites to look for potsherds and other artifacts. When he was 13, his mother, a food chemist in Stockholm, yielded to her son's most frequent request: to visit Egypt. "It was absolutely fascinating," he recalls. "We went to the pyramids, to Karnak and the Valley of the Kings. The soil was full of artifacts."

Paabo, 51, is still looking for artifacts, but in a very different place. He's a leader of the worldwide quest to explore the past by analyzing human DNA. He has helped show that human groups—southern Africans, Western Europeans, Native Americans—are closely related, despite superficial distinctions. He has been uncovering key genetic changes that helped transform our shambling, hirsute ancestors into the brainy bipeds we are today. This past summer, Paabo announced that he and his co-workers were going to take the next—and biggest—step, in their effort to resurrect the genome of the Neanderthal, our distant evolutionary cousin, who went extinct 30,000 years ago.

It's more centered around Paabo, but it gives a good summary of the various Neanderthal DNA stuff that's been going on. Long article al free from Smithsonian.

Another Neanderthal story here.