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Almost a decade ago, the sequencing of ancient DNA from archaic humans - Neanderthals and Denisovans - revealed that modern and archaic humans interbred at least twice during the Pleistocene. The field of human paleogenomics has now turned its attention towards understanding the nature of this genetic legacy in the gene pool of present-day humans. What exactly did modern humans obtain from interbreeding with Neanderthals and Denisovans? Were introgressed genetic material beneficial, neutral or maladaptive? Can differences in phenotypes among present-day human populations be explained by archaic human introgression? These questions are of prime importance for our understanding of recent human evolution, but will require careful computational modeling and extensive functional assays before they can be answered in full. Here, we review the recent literature characterizing introgressed DNA and the likely biological consequences for their modern human carriers. We focus particularly on archaic human haplotypes that were beneficial to modern humans as they expanded across the globe, and on ways to understand how populations harboring these haplotypes evolved over time.
A survey of recent results in the field of archaic human paleogenomics, and a discussion of prospects for future studies.