Image: Neanderthal and human
John Wiley & Sons Inc.
The Neanderthal skeleton, at left, is compared with a modern human skeleton.
updated 7/6/2005 2:04:17 PM ET 2005-07-06T18:04:17

German and U.S. scientists have launched a project to reconstruct the Neanderthal genome, the Max-Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology said Wednesday.

The project, which involves isolating genetic fragments from fossils of the prehistoric beings who originally inhabited Europe, is being carried out at the Leipzig-based institute.

"The project is very new and is just at its beginning," said Sandra Jacob, a spokeswoman for the institute.

Geneticist Edward Rubin, from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in Berkeley, Calif., is also participating in the project.

In an interview with the German weekly Die Zeit, Rubin said the research would amount to more than just a spectacular display of science.

"Firstly, we will learn a lot about the Neanderthals. Secondly, we will learn a lot about the uniqueness of human beings. And thirdly, it's simply cool," Rubin said.

Neanderthals were replaced by modern humans in Europe only between 40,000 and 30,000 years ago.

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