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Archaeology & History

Egyptian mummy DNA study results revealed

By T.K. Randall
June 4, 2017 · Comment icon 21 comments

The DNA results offer important clues about Egypt's past. Image Credit: John Reinhard Weguelin
Scientists have revealed the results of a recent study in to the DNA of 151 ancient Egyptian mummies.
The remains, which were unearthed at the ancient burial site of Abusir el-Meleq along the west bank of the lower Nile River, date back from around 1400 B.C. to 400 A.D.

Acquiring genetic information from such ancient mummies however has proven so notoriously difficult over the years that some scientists had believed it to be impossible.

"The hot Egyptian climate, the high humidity levels in many tombs and some of the chemicals used in mummification techniques contribute to DNA degradation and are thought to make the long-term survival of DNA in Egyptian mummies unlikely," said study senior author Johannes Krause.

Despite this though, the groundbreaking new study, which has proven once and for all that it really is possible to extract DNA from ancient mummies, has succeeded in opening up the door to a wealth of historical genetic data that can tell us much about the ancestry of the ancient Egyptians.

In particular, the team set out to "test if the conquest of Alexander the Great and other foreign powers had left a genetic imprint on the ancient Egyptian population."
As it turned out, there was very little evidence to suggest that this was the case.

"The genetics of the Abusir el-Meleq community did not undergo any major shifts during the 1,300-year timespan we studied, suggesting that the population remained genetically relatively unaffected by foreign conquest and rule," said group leader Wolfgang Haak from the Max Planck Institute.

Intriguingly, the ancient Egyptians were actually more closely related to Europeans than Africans.

"We find that ancient Egyptians are most closely related to Neolithic and Bronze Age samples in the Levant, as well as to Neolithic Anatolian and European populations," the researchers wrote.

"When comparing this pattern with modern Egyptians, we find that the ancient Egyptians are more closely related to all modern and ancient European populations that we tested, likely due to the additional African component in the modern population."

Source: CBS News | Comments (21)




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Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #12 Posted by Gingitsune 7 years ago
Academics, the ones who wrote the paper, are worried that Fayoum may not be representative of the entire Egypt, the city is rather North, the mummies rather recent and they would expect a stronger Levant influence. They are also wandering if it's Levant DNA in Egypt or Egyptian DNA in the Levant. Although the Anatolian farmer DNA is undoubtedly from Anatolia. The paper:https://www.nature.com/articles/ncomms15694 Plus the graphs which doesn't appear in the daily mail article. The first one is about mt-DNA, mitochondrial DNA which isn't human DNA properly, but the DNA of unicellular organisms w... [More]
Comment icon #13 Posted by grimsituation6 7 years ago
one must also remember that ancient
Comment icon #14 Posted by Peter Cox 7 years ago
Seeing how it is backed up with REAL science and not wild speculation and guess work, Im very sure they will cope with it very well.
Comment icon #15 Posted by Codenwarra 7 years ago
I doubt that academia will have the least problem with it.  But the Afrocentrists on the net "Egypts were black" (sic)  will be screaming that it's fake.  Since they are conspiracy theorists who carefully ignore tomb painting evidence because they show the "wrong colours"  they can be ignored.   If the north was predominantly populated by Eurasians and the south predominantly by people with a more recent African ancestry that would not surprise me at all.  Peasant populations are not very mobile. 
Comment icon #16 Posted by Stealth_Goat 7 years ago
Interesting comment. We do know that despite this new evidence, ancient Egypt around 5600 BC was primarily African. Over its lifetime, the country was invaded by the Hyksos, Assyrians, Persians, Greeks and the Romans, but as this new evidence indicates, this didn't change the ethnic make-up of the locals as much. However, the Greek father of history, Herodotus, states that the Egyptians during his time, i.e. 400 BC, had wooly hair, thick lips and burnt skin. I don’t know about you, but that sounds African to me. I do know that in 332 BC after Alexander the Great invaded Egypt and died soon a... [More]
Comment icon #17 Posted by back to earth 7 years ago
No civilisation anywhere was made up of one ' race ' .     That seems to be a key feature of developing  civilisations  .  Peeps still confusing 'race'   ,  ' ethnicity '  and   'nationality '    .     Anyone could be an Egyptian regarding the first 2 but not the third, 
Comment icon #18 Posted by Everdred 7 years ago
It's always been known that North Africa was populated by a migration from Asia, given that native North Africans are Caucasian. What is very clear now, however, is that farmers migrated to North Africa, including Egypt, in very substantial numbers (rather than agriculture spreading via cultural diffusion). If you look at the ADMXITURE analysis, you'll note a solid brown bar in the Natufian section. This is because that brown component originates among the Levantine peoples, who were early agriculturalists. This brown Natufian component, as you can see, is the principal component in the three ... [More]
Comment icon #19 Posted by Zinc12 7 years ago
Oh no, the Afrocentrics wont be happy...they spent so much time talking about how they built the pyramids lol
Comment icon #20 Posted by docyabut2 7 years ago
It does seems to show the black skinned people were the first in the areas of  Egypt.  Homo sapiens of the black skinned migrated into the coldest caves of the north that made the melon in the skin turned lighter,it  didn't  happen over night,  and must have came  back.   
Comment icon #21 Posted by Codenwarra 7 years ago
Yes, I have read the first book of Herodotus and am currently chewing through the rest. When was it that he visited?  About 2430 years ago I think.  The Afrocentrists claim that ALL the ancient Egyptians were as Herodotus says.  Tomb paintings show a variety of skin tones, even in the same tomb so not ALL ancient Egyptians were black over a long and complex history.  This DNA evidence also indicates that not ALL were black.   I was not aware that academics were committed to the idea that ALL ancient Egyptians were black or not black.  If you see some of the comments on YouTube videos y... [More]


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