Category: Harriet-Elliott participants

Just as we are trying to digest the implications of the draft Neandertal genome (which, by the way, suggests that Neandertals contributed up to 4% of their genomes to non-African modern human populations), a new study published in Nature by David Reich (Harvard Med School) and colleagues reports the genome of an unclassified (all we have is a pinky bone and an isolated tooth) ca. 40,000-year-old hominin from Denisova Cave in southern Siberia. The genome appears distinct both from that of European Neandertals and contemporary modern humans. However, there is evidence that early modern human populations interbred with these “Denisovans” and, in fact, modern Melanesian populations (represented in the paper by genomes from Papua New Guinea and Bougainville) appear to have received approximately 4% of their genomes from this extinct group of humans.

So, taken together, these genetic data seem to indicate that modern Melanesians derive up to 8% of their genomes (4% Neandertal and 4% “Denisovan”) from now-extinct human groups. Pretty cool stuff.   

Check out the summaries from Science News and Nature for more information, and our keynote speaker John Hawks’s weblog provides very detailed commentary on these exciting findings.

UPDATE 12.23.11. Dr. Hawks is also interviewed in an NPR story from Dec. 23 that summarizes the implications of these data.  


Green, R.E., et al. (2010). A draft sequence of the Neandertal genome. Science 328: 710-722.

Krause, J., et al. (2010). The complete mitochrondrial DNA genome of an unknown hominin from southern Siberia. Nature 464: 894-897.

Reich, D., et al. (2010). Genetic history of an archaic hominin group from Denisova Cave in Siberia. Nature 468: 1053-1060.


Here is an interesting video conversation with Alondra Nelson, one of our panelists for this year’s event, about how people construct their racial identity in the age of genomics.

The Department of Anthropology at UNCG welcomes you to our Harriet-Elliott lecture series blog! We are pleased to announce the 2011 theme, “Our genetic past and genomic future.”

Our purpose in creating this blog is threefold: first, we want to provide students and the public with an archive of current issues pertaining to human genetic evolution and, importantly, its applications to everyday life–from biomedical practice to issues of social identity. Second, we hope you will use this blog as an opportunity to join in on the conversation about these topics. Finally, we will be asking our users—all of you—to supply questions for us to present to our panelists and keynote speaker on the day of the event.  

So, first thing’s first, a little sneak peak on the event…

1. It will be held on Wednesday, March 23, 2011 and is composed of a panel discussion followed by a keynote lecture.

2. Our panel discussion will run from 3-5pm in the main auditorium at the Elliot University Center on UNCG’s campus (see the lecture series main page for information on our panelists). This roundtable-style discussion will focus on the scientific study of human origins, evolution, and variability and the application of this knowledge to everyday life.

3. Our keynote address will run from 7-9pm in the Mead Auditorium in the Sullivan Science Building (Room 101), also on UNCG’s campus. Our keynote speaker is John Hawks, an Associate Professor of biological anthropology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The lecture topic is pending, but will focus on human genetic evolution within the past 30,000 years. Dr. Hawks hosts a well-known paleoanthropology blog himself, and we encourage you to check it out here.

Ok, so now that you know what the event is all about, check back with us as we begin our conversation on, “Our genetic past and genomic future”…