Neanderthals and modern humans came in contact with each other and interbred at least twice in the past 100,000 years. Such contact and interbreeding likely led both to the transmission of viruses novel to either species and to the exchange of adaptive alleles that provided resistance against the same viruses. Here, we show that viruses were responsible for dozens of adaptive introgressions between Neanderthals and modern humans. We identify RNA viruses, specifically lentiviruses and orthomyxoviruses, as likely drivers of introgressions from Neanderthals to Europeans. Our results imply that many introgressions between Neanderthals and modern humans were adaptive, and that host genetic variation can be used to understand ancient viral epidemics, potentially providing important insights regarding current and future epidemics.