smooth wombat writes "U.S. and German scientists have embarked on a two-year long project to map the genetic code of Neanderthal man. Their hope is to gain a greater understanding of how modern human brains evolved. This study comes after last years completion of mapping the DNA of chimpanzees, our closest living relative." From the article: "Over two years, the scientists aim to reconstruct a draft of the 3 billion building blocks of the Neanderthal genome -- working with fossil samples from several individuals. They face the complication of working with 40,000-year-old samples, and of filtering out microbial DNA that contaminated them after death. Only about 5 percent of the DNA in the samples is actually Neanderthal DNA, Egholm estimated, but he and Rothberg said pilot experiments had convinced them that the decoding was feasible."