it was reported that a team working on Neanderthal genome sequencing efforts found that all modern human populations, outside of Sub-Saharan Africans, share some Neanderthal genetic material--perhaps 1 to 4 percent of their total genome. This suggests some interbreeding went on sometime before 45,000 years ago--after the first human exodus from Africa, but before the split that led to groups spreading out over Eurasia.
Maybe its just me, but I think this has some gaming applications. I've already suggested that dwarves are Neanderthals uplifted by an alien intelligence--at least in my campaign setting. Let's add to this idea the background of Ska from Jack Vance's Lyonesse Trilogy--who hold themselves to be the only pure humans because they believe all other populations to be interbred with Neanderthals--and apply the resultant mixture to the standard D&D implied setting, and see what we get...
Maybe elves represent "pure" humanity undiluted by interbreeding with other hominids? They never left the ancestral homeland, whether in some Uttermost West, or elsewhere. Why not the South where the ancestral population might be darker-skinned (and perhaps call themselves "the First Born" for a nice Burroughs Easter egg)? Then, "humans" could be a more mixed bunch, descendants of folk who left the ancestral homeland and encountered other groups. Dwarves would still be "purer" Neanderthal descendants. This would nicely set elves and dwarves up as disparate groups, but humans would share a bit of both.
We don't have to stop there. Orcs could be descendants of another hominid species entirely, as might halflings--or maybe halflings are just an interesting human sub-population, whichever. The point is, all humanoids and demi-humans could be woven into a riotous fantasy hominid family tree.
4 hours ago