Matt Pope, of the Institute of Archaeology in London, specialises in Neanderthal research. He says: ‘rather than having to evolve disease resistance from scratch as they moved out of Africa and into Asia and Europe, this interaction provided humans with a fast track to adapting to new environments.’
The downside, says Professor Paul Norman, co-author of the paper, is that the same gene group can trigger autoimmune disease, when the body mistakes its own tissues as foreign and potentially dangerous. ‘It looks to me like modern humans acquired these genes, but were not prepared for them; we had not grown up with them, and in some circumstances, they can start to attack us as well as viruses and other pathogens,’ he says.
This article is an extract from the full article published in World Archaeology Issue 49. Click here to subscribe