Recent discoveries have uncovered three more-recent Families of Homo who lived at the same time – Cro-Magnon, Neanderthal, and Denisovan – thereby making our view of ourselves more complex. The mystery that these Families present to us is how they interacted with each other. Did They ignore each other, make war with each other, or intermarry? Did They even regard each other as Human?
What modern scientists have uncovered in their DNA studies of modern humans was astonishing. Many people of European ancestry have a small percentage of Neanderthal DNA in their genetic make-up. Because the Neanderthals grew up in the cold climates of Europe, They were stocky and heavy-boned. Migrating from Africa, Cro-Magnons were smaller and slighter. Interbreeding with Neanderthals helped the Cro-Magnons to withstand the freezing cold.
Meanwhile, the Denisovans left Africa about a million years after H. erectus did and half-million years before the Neanderthals appeared in Europe. Living in Siberia, Denisovans used advanced tools such as bone needles. However, what fossils remains of Them that we have were their very large teeth, which were similar to Australopithecus. Migrating to South Asia and nearby Asian Islands, Denisovans also interbred with Cro-Magnons there. Today, people in New Guinea and other islands carry Denisovan DNA in their genetic make-up.
The picture that emerges is that though the majority of these Familes did not interact, some did, and regarded each other as Human. (Scientists claim that the ratio of inbreeding was about fifty Denisovans to every thousand Humans.) As we move forward in time, we see the grove of Humankind dwindling down one by one. We modern humans may be all that is left, but we carry the Others inside of ourselves. We can celebrate our ancient Ancestors by acknowledging their contribution to our well-being. Since They chose to become a part of us, let us be true to our heritage and be tolerant of each other.