The last common male ancestor of all humans is far older than previously thought, scientists have found. When the family of Albert Perry, an African-American living in South Carolina, submitted his DNA to commercial genealogy company Family Tree DNA, it was discovered that his Y chromosome was so distinct that his male lineage likely separated from all others around 338,000 years ago.

This ancestor is tens of thousands of years older than the previously-thought common male ancestor, who lived around 60,000-140,000 years ago. Since the first modern human fossils only date back to around 195,000 years ago, Perry’s lineage diverged from the rest of humanity long before the modern human race appeared.

This postulation suggests that anatomically modern humans interbred with Perry’s archaic human people. A 2011 discovery in Nigeria found fossils with a mixture of ancient and modern features, suggesting that this interbreeding really did take place.

When scientists from the University of Arizona in Tucson did further research into Perry’s case, they found an African DNA database of around 6,000 Y chromosomes which contained 11 samples similar to Perry’s. All 11 lived in one village in Cameroon, suggesting that this could have been where Perry’s ancestors came from.

Further work is now needed to determine exactly how much older Albert Perry’s Y chromosome is than most others.