DNA from mummies found at a site once known for its cult to the Egyptian god of the afterlife is unwrapping intriguing insight into the people of ancient Egypt, including a surprise discovery that they had scant genetic ties to sub-Saharan Africa.
About the DNA extracted
- The DNA was extracted from the teeth and bones of mummies from a burial ground associated with the god Osiris. The oldest were from about 1,388 BC during the New Kingdom, a high point in ancient Egyptian influence and culture.
- The most recent were from about 426 AD, centuries after Egypt had become a Roman Empire province.
- Mummification was used to preserve the bodies of the dead for the afterlife. The mummies in the study were of middle-class people, not royalty.
- Are modern Egyptians direct descendants of ancient Egyptians?
- Was there genetic continuity in Egypt through time?
- Did foreign invaders change the genetic make-up: for example, did Egyptians become more ‘European’ after Alexander the Great conquered Egypt?
- The genomes showed that, unlike modern Egyptians, ancient Egyptians had little to no genetic kinship with sub-Saharan populations, some of which like ancient Ethiopia were known to have had significant interactions with Egypt.
- The closest genetic ties were to the peoples of the ancient Near East, spanning parts of Iraq and Turkey as well as Israel, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon.
DNA, or deoxyribonucleic acid, is the hereditary material in humans and almost all other organisms. Nearly every cell in a person’s body has the same DNA. Most DNA is located in the cell nucleus (where it is called nuclear DNA), but a small amount of DNA can also be found in the mitochondria (where it … Continue reading “What is DNA?”