New research findings show that Neanderthals lived alongside modern humans for thousands of years – we were practically BFFs, or perhaps 'frenemies'.
Far from wiping out Neanderthals overnight, modern humans co-existed with their shorter and stockier cousins for thousands of years, giving plenty of time for the two groups to share ideas – and even squeeze in a bit of time for sex.
The most accurate timeline yet for the demise of our closest relatives, published in the journal Nature on Aug 20, shows that Neanderthals overlapped with present-day humans in Europe for between 2,600 and 5,400 years before disappearing about 40,000 years ago.
Pinpointing how and when the Neanderthals became extinct has been tough because the mainstay process of radiocarbon dating is unreliable for samples that are more than 30,000 years old, due to contamination. But the latest six-year project by researchers at the University of Oxford uses modern methods to remove contaminants and accurately date nearly 200 samples of bone, charcoal and shell from 40 important archaeological sites across Europe.