Category Archives: Ancient DNA

In Easter Island DNA, Evidence of Genetic Loneliness

A small green dot lost in the vastness of the southeastern Pacific Ocean, Easter Island has long enchanted archaeologists and the public. Hundreds of giant stone figures, or Moai, that decorate the volcanic island remain a source of fascination.
One of the greatest mysteries about Easter Island, also known as Rapa Nui, concerns the identity of its earliest inhabitants, the architects of the stoic statues. Did they have genetic ties to natives on the South American land mass thousands of miles away, or were their origins solely in the Pacific islands to the west?

New Clues to How Neanderthal Genes Affect Your Health

If your arthritis is bad today or you’re slathering on aloe for an early autumn sunburn, Neanderthals may be partly to blame.
Scientists announced today the second complete, high-quality sequencing of a Neanderthal genome, made using the 52,000-year-old bones of a female found in the Vindija cave in Croatia.
Together with the genomes from another Neanderthal woman and a host of modern humans, a suite of analyses is yielding new clues about how DNA from Neanderthals contributed to our genetic makeup and might still be affecting us today.

Ancient human DNA in sub-Saharan Africa lifts veil on prehistory

The first large-scale study of ancient human DNA from sub-Saharan Africa opens a long-awaited window into the identity of prehistoric populations in the region and how they moved around and replaced one another over the past 8,000 years.
The findings, published Sept. 21 in Cell by an international research team led by Harvard Medical School, answer several longstanding mysteries and uncover surprising details about sub-Saharan African ancestry—including genetic adaptations for a hunter-gatherer lifestyle and the first glimpses of population distribution before farmers and animal herders swept across the continent about 3,000 years ago.

Bones attributed to St Peter found by chance in 1,000-year-old church in Rome

Bones attributed to St Peter have been found by chance in a church in Rome during routine restoration work, 2,000 years after the apostle’s death.
The relics of the saint, who is regarded as the first Pope, were found in clay pots in the 1,000-year-old Church of Santa Maria in Cappella in the district of Trastevere, a medieval warren of cobbled lanes on the banks of the Tiber River.
The bones were discovered when a worker lifted up a large marble slab near the medieval altar of the church, which has been closed to the public for 35 years because of structural problems.

Huge DNA Databases Reveal the Recent Evolution of Humans

When we talk about human evolution, we usually talk about how we evolved into humans: how we lost body hair, gained brain mass, started to walk on two feet—in short, things that happened millions of years ago.
But evolution did not stop when the first modern humans emerged. A new study of two massive genetic databases—one in the United Kingdom and one in California—suggests genetic mutations that shorten lifespans have been weeded out since, and are possibly still in the process of being weeded out today.

Sampling DNA From a 1,000-Year-Old Illuminated Manuscript

Genetic analysis could revolutionize the study of medieval books.
If their technique works, it could revolutionize the use of parchment to study history. Every one of these books is a herd of animals. Using DNA, researchers might track how a disease changed the makeup of a herd or how the skin of sheep from one region moved to another medieval trade routes. It’s part of a growing movement to bring together scholars in the sciences and humanities to study medieval manuscripts.

Siberia: Medieval Mummies From Mystery Arctic Civilization Discovered In Zelenyy Yar Necropolis

Two medieval mummies from an Arctic civilization have been discovered at the edge of Siberia. The remains of an adult and a baby were found in the Zelenyy Yar necropolis, an archaeological complex discovered in 1997. They were covered in copper, the adult having been plated from head to toe.
Excavations at Zelenyy Yar ended last week, but over the course of this year’s expedition to the Arctic site, scientists found 10 graves. Five had not been looted for their “grave goods,” valuable objects placed with bodies in ancient burials.

DNA discovery reveals genetic history of ancient Egyptians

(CNN)Ancient Egyptians and their modern counterparts share less in common than you might think. That is, at least genetically, a team of scientists have found.
Researchers from the University of Tuebingen and the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History in Jena, both in Germany, have decoded the genome of ancient Egyptians for the first time, with unexpected results.

Ancient DNA Could Unravel the Mystery of Prehistoric European Migration

Let’s face it: Even with the modern conveniences of U-Hauls and cardboard boxes, moving is a pain. For Neolithic humans living in Europe 5,000 years ago, the obstacles—roaming predators, lack of transportation, unforgiving—must have seemed insurmountable. “Deep in the past, a few humans could have moved hundreds of kilometers, certainly, but most people at that time would not have,” says Chris Tyler-Smith, a human genetics researcher at England’s Sanger Institute.

Mummy DNA unravels ancient Egyptians’ ancestry

The tombs of ancient Egypt have yielded golden collars and ivory bracelets, but another treasure — human DNA — has proved elusive. Now, scientists have captured sweeping genomic information from Egyptian mummies. It reveals that mummies were closely related to ancient Middle Easterners, hinting that northern Africans might have different genetic roots from people south of the Sahara desert.

DNA from ancient Egyptian mummies reveals their ancestry

Ancient Egyptians were an archaeologist’s dream. They left behind intricate coffins, massive pyramids and gorgeous hieroglyphs, the pictorial writing code cracked in 1799. Egyptians recorded tales of royalty and gods. They jotted down life’s miscellanies, too, as humdrum as beer recipes and doctor’s notes.
But there was one persistent hole in ancient Egyptian identity: their chromosomes. Cool, dry permafrost can preserve prehistoric DNA like a natural freezer, but Egypt is a gene incinerator. The region is hot. Within the mummies’ tombs, where scientists would hope to find genetic samples, humidity wrecked their DNA. What’s more, soda ash and other chemicals used by Egyptian embalmers damaged genetic material.

7.2-million-year-old pre-human fossils challenge modern human evolution theory

A jawbone discovered by German troops in Athens during the Second World War could be evidence that apes and humans diverged 200,000 years earlier than the current theory says.
Chimpanzees and bonobos are the nearest known relatives to humans, sharing 99 per cent of our DNA. It’s believed that we split between five and seven million years ago.

Mary Rose ship crew ‘to be identified using DNA’

Scientists examining human remains from Henry VIII’s flagship Mary Rose are hoping to reconstruct skeletons of some of its crew using DNA.
Previous attempts to reform the bodies were based on “physical matching”, including bone size, and not DNA.
It is hoped more faces of some crew members can then be recreated.
The University of Portsmouth research will also enable scientists to learn more about their heights, ages and where they came from.

Norway police hope new DNA test will reveal identity of woman burned to death nearly 50 years ago

George Sandeman – The case of a woman who burned to death on the slopes of a Norwegian valley that has left police stumped for nearly 50 years has been reopened.
Using the latest DNA analysis techniques they have built a genetic profile of the woman and hope that by sharing the data with forces across Europe they will be able to solve the decades-long mystery.

No Bones About It: Scientists Recover Ancient DNA From Cave Dirt

Sifting through teaspoons of clay and sand scraped from the floors of caves, German researchers have managed to isolate ancient human DNA — without turning up a single bone.
Their new technique, described in a study published on Thursday in the journal Science, promises to open new avenues of research into human prehistory and was met with excitement by geneticists and archaeologists.