A team of researchers analyzed DNA collected from thousands of years old mummies buried in Egypt, and discovered that ancient Egyptians were much genetically different than their modern-day descendants. In fact, they were more similar with today’s Israelis, Syrians, and Lebanese people.
New method to collect DNA from mummies
Scientists have thought for a long time that mummies could not preserve any DNA. However, they have now discovered a new and more accurate method to analyze mummy DNA. They studied 151 mummies excavated during the 20th from a site south of Cairo. The results were published in the journal Nature Communications.
The mummies came from different periods, with the oldest one being around 1,300 years old. After performing radiocarbon dating, researchers found they dated back from 1388 BC and 426 AD. The DNA was collected from teeth and bones, as there was none left in the preserved soft tissue. Only three of these mummies had a perfectly intact genome, and they represented the main object of the study.
Ancient Egyptians were more similar to people living nowadays in the Near East
After collecting this DNA, scientists compared it to the DNA of modern people living now in Egypt, as well as to the DNA of the people who lived in Egypt during the ancient period. Then, they made an interesting discovery. Ancient Egyptians were more similar from a genetic point of view with people from the Near East than with modern Egyptians.
For instance, around 20 percent of today’s Egyptians have sub-Saharan DNA. Johannes Krause, the lead author of the study, explained that African populations have interacted more during modern times due to a more developed trade and a wider spread of Islam belief.
Researchers used a more advanced method of DNA sequencing, by isolating all the human-looking genetic material and eliminating any DNA coming from contamination. Besides from the genetic value of the findings, the study highlights a new method of analyzing mummies.
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