September 17, 2008—Meet Wilma—named for the redheaded Flintstones character—the first model of a Neanderthal based in part on ancient DNA evidence.
Artists and scientists created Wilma (shown in a photo released yesterday) using analysis of DNA from 43,000-year-old bones that had been cannibalized. Announced in October 2007, the findings had suggested that at least some Neanderthals would have had red hair, pale skin, and possibly freckles.
Created for an October 2008 National Geographic magazine article, Wilma has a skeleton made from replicas of pelvis and skull bones from Neanderthal females. Copies of male Neanderthal bones—resized to female dimensions—filled in the gaps.
(The National Geographic Society owns both National Geographic News and National Geographic magazine.)
"For the first time, anthropologists can go beyond fossils and peer into the actual genes of an extinct species of human," said National Geographic's senior science editor, Jamie Shreeve, who oversaw the project.
"We saw an opportunity to literally embody this new science in a full-size Neanderthal female, reconstructed using the latest information from genetics, fossil evidence, and archaeology."
For more on Neanderthals, watch Neanderthal Code, airing Sunday, September 21, on the National Geographic Channel.