A human ancestor previously unknown to science lived alongside ancient humans and Neanderthals — and they all interbred

The eastern Mediterranean coast was a crowded place 120,000 years ago.

By that time, Homo sapiens — anatomically modern humans — had migrated out of Africa and settled in modern-day Israel and Arabia. Meanwhile, Neanderthals — our genetic cousins — had started to thrive in Eurasia.

Now, new research reveals that a third human ancestor was hunting and gathering in the same landscape. Two studies published Thursday in the journal Science describe a previously unknown hominin called the Nesher Ramla homo. The group not only shared tools and technology with their neighbors, they also interbred. “They lived together and interacted with another,” Rachel Sarig, an anthropologist from Tel Aviv University and co-author of the new studies, told Insider.

Sarig and her colleagues uncovered a partial jaw bone, which they pieced together from 17 fragments like a puzzle, deep in a sinkhole at an Israeli site called Nesher Ramla — hence the ancestor’s name. There were also chunks of skull and a tooth belonging to the same individual.

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