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Release: Oct. 20, 1999

Renowned anthropologist to speak at UI Oct. 28 on Neandertals, evolution

IOWA CITY, Iowa — Erik Trinkaus, internationally renowned expert on the Neandertals, will speak about human evolution at a free public lecture at the University of Iowa Thursday, Oct. 28. His presentation, "Latest European Discoveries Raise the Question: Did Neandertals and Modern Humans Share Genes?" will begin at 7:30 p.m. in Macbride Hall Auditorium on the UI campus.

The controversy surrounding the Neandertals and their place in the ancestry of modern humans has continued since the fossilized remains of this stocky, powerful, human-like being were first discovered in the Neander Valley, Germany in 1856. Some experts feel that the Neandertals were quite different from modern humans and probably contributed little to our own family tree. Recent DNA studies would tend to support this. Others, however, have argued that the Neandertals probably interbred with modern humans providing genes to the modern human pool.

Trinkaus has recently examined the remains of a largely complete child’s skeleton buried with shell ornaments and covered in red ocher pigment at the Portuguese site of Abrigo do Lagar Velho, and dated to 24,500 years ago. This individual exhibits characteristics that indicate a mixing of European early modern human and Neandertal features. This mosaic suggests interbreeding between the two populations in southern Iberia and argues against the complete replacement of Neandertals by modern humans. Trinkaus will examine what is known about the Neandertals and will discuss the significance of the latest discoveries.

Trinkaus, a professor of anthropology at Washington University in St. Louis, is a member of The National Academy of Sciences, the author of numerous scientific articles on paleoanthropology, and the co-author with Pat Shipman of "The Neandertals: Of Skeletons, Scientists, and Scandal," published by Vintage Books in 1994.

His visit is sponsored by The Office of the State Archaeologist of Iowa, the department of anthropology, the department of geoscience, the Museum of Natural History, and the Medical Museum, all at the UI, as well as the Iowa State University Archaeology Laboratory. Funding has also been provided through a grant from the Iowa City/Coralville Visitors Bureau.