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Vindija Cave, in Croatia, is a now designated as prehistoric site from the Paleolithic period. Sediments, in which scientists have detected DNA, have become a treasure for paleontologists, anthropologists and archaeologists.

Until then, only fossilized bones had constituted such a resource. But thanks to recent technological advances, such as the rapid sequencing of DNA, scientists have uncovered human and animal genetic information in the geological layers. These data date back to the Pleistocene, a prehistoric period ranging from – 500,000 to – 14,000 years.

Neanderthal DNA extraction

Geneticist at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology extracting ancient DNA (2005 photograph)

Reconstruction of Neanderthal woman

Reconstruction of Neanderthal woman. Illustration from PLOS One (open access article) pubished in Public Library of Science – ” Cro-Magnons Conquered Europe, but Left Neanderthals Alone”. © 2004 Public Library of Science. CC BY 2.5