Discovery of twins may reveal whether humans and Neanderthals interbred





Researchers have unearthed the graves of three Stone Age infants that may ultimately bear on the question of whether humans interbred with Neandertals. The rare find, from a 27,000-year-old site in Austria, includes two bodies that might be twins sheltered under a mammoth's shoulder blade.

The team discovered the skeletons in two separate burial pits: One uncovered last year contained two infants side by side--twins, apparently. A second pit containing a single body was found this year about a meter from the first pit. The twins had been protected from the elements by the mammoth bone and were very well preserved, says team member Christine Neugebauer-Maresch of the Prehistoric Commission of the Austrian Academy of Sciences in Vienna. An incisor from one of the pair indicates they died at nine or ten months of age, the group reports in the November 16 Nature. Before this, "there were no graves of newborns at all," Neugebauer-Maresch says. "We think if there are two preserved it's possible there are much more."

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