Thank you for this recent article about neanderthal DNA. You said :
As far as the common ancestor/eve from mitachondrial dna is concerned maybe this will help. It looks like there were many. For instance this article talks about a common ancestor for neanderthals and modern humans [about 500,000 years ago], based on mtdna. Common ancestor doesn't appear to prove anything, with regard to the biblical eve.
Again, I find it a bit difficult to distinguish between theory and fact in this article (which appeared as Whither the Neanderthals? in Science of March 7, 2003). Much of what Richard Klein writes is quite clearly theory. He proposes various theories as to why the Neanderthals became extinct. For example, Klein said modern humans may have evolved a gene promoting speech and language that the Neanderthals lacked, but "this is a theory without substantial proof".
In fact, in the same article in Yahoo! News it went on to quote Henry Harpending, a University of Utah anthropologist, who said "he is unconvinced of either Klein's arguments [that there was not interbreeding after modern humans evolved in Africa] or theories that there was interbreeding between Neanderthals and modern humans".
Harpending said the genetic evidence is only marginal and open to different interpretations.
"Right now, there's no compelling evidence for either point of view," he said.
A couple of days ago I came across a newspaper cutting from The Times of London, 29 March 2000, regarding DNA evidence from the bones of a Neanderthal child found in a cave in the Caucasus. The BBC link to it can be found at http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/694467.stm. The Times article said :
After comparing their DNA with those of modern human beings and with other Neanderthal remains from Feldhofer in Germany, differences were found between the two Neanderthal specimens. However, they were consistent with having belonged to populations isolated from one another 1,500 miles apart.
There were much larger differences between the two Neanderthal specimens and modern human beings, indicating that there was no direct line of descent. Had we been descended directly from Neanderthals - as a minority of specialists has continued to believe - we would have shared much more of the DNA sequences.
The team [led by William Goodwin of Glasgow University] concludes in Nature that separation between modern human and Neanderthal was about 500,000 years ago, though it could have been as long ago as 853,000 years or as recent as 365,000.
It seems to me that the facts are that the DNA of neanderthals is too distinct from modern human DNA for them to be related. Thus there is no question as to whether a distant mitochondrial Eve can be traced back to Neanderthals. The theory is that molecular evidence can show that there was a common ancestor for neanderthals and modern humans, but this is based on circular reasoning. You start with the assumption that there was a common ancestor and then say that as they shared the same DNA in the past it would have taken them [500,000 years, give or take a couple of hundred thousand years] for the DNA to have become as different as it is today. But if they didn't have a common ancestor and share the same DNA at one time then a comparison of the DNA shows nothing at all.
So, I am not suggesting that mitochondrial DNA proves a "mother Eve" of the human race, but I understand it is what we would expect if there was such a "mother Eve". Further, the difference in DNA between neanderthals and modern humans simply shows that they are different.