The Abstract Podcast

Vikings, neanderthals: setting the genetic record straight

In this episode, we explore how human history is constantly being rewritten by new discoveries.

Västergötlands Museum

As ancient DNA continues to unravel humankind's diverse past, it becomes clear that our collective family tree is a complicated one. More of a branching, steady stream than a dammed river, we’re basically a mishmash of billions of complex individuals.

It turns out, Vikings weren’t a “purebred” pack of blond-haired, burly men who only mated with their own kind.The latest Viking DNA study says they’re actually comprised of many ethnicities and ancestries.

Meanwhile, a new study of Neanderthal DNA unearthed a surprising link to the modern human from the past, opening up a new chapter in the complex history of ancient peoples.

Despite all the rewrites our genetic history books has received, one thing appears to be constant: When it comes to mating, our ancient relatives had a very open mind.

In this episode of The Abstract, we explore how human history is constantly being rewritten by new discoveries.

Our first story looks at the largest genetic study of Viking DNA to date. With scientists learning that they’re actually much more genetically diverse than previously thought, the finding suggests that being a Viking had more to do with one's own lived identity than some specific genetic combo.

Our second story is about the discovery that Neanderthals and modern humans shared a common ancestor earlier than expected, suggesting there were different waves of “intermixing events.” By sequencing Neanderthal Y chromosomes, scientists can now paint a clearer timeline of ancient hominids' interactions with one another.

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Right now, facts and science matter more than ever. That's part of the reason for The Abstract, this all-new podcast from the Inverse staff that focuses exclusively on science and innovation. Three new episodes are released a week, and each covers one theme via two related stories. Each features audio of original Inverse reporting, where the facts and context take center stage. It's hosted by the Tanya Bustos of WSJ Podcasts. Because we're Inverse, it's all true but slightly off-kilter. It's made for people who want to know the whole story. Nick Lucchesi, executive editor, Inverse

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