Neanderthals are the extinct hominid group most closely related to contemporary humans, so their genome offers a unique opportunity to identify genetic changes specific to anatomically fully modern humans. We have identified a 38,000-year-old Neanderthal fossil that is exceptionally free of contamination from modern human DNA. Direct high-throughput sequencing of a DNA extract from this fossil has thus far yielded over one million base pairs of hominoid nuclear DNA sequences. Comparison with the human and chimpanzee genomes reveals that modern human and Neanderthal DNA sequences diverged on average about 500,000years ago. Existing technology and fossil resources are now sufficient to initiate a Neanderthal genome-sequencing effort.