Scientists first fully «read» the DNA of ancient Egyptian mummies

© Photo : Bpk/Aegyptisches Museum und Papyrussammlung, SMB/Sandra SteissСаркофаг one of the three mummies whose DNA the scientists were able to read all theScientists first fully «read» the DNA of ancient Egyptian mummies© Photo : Bpk/Aegyptisches Museum und Papyrussammlung, SMB/Sandra Steiss

Paleogenetic for the first time fully restored and deciphered the DNA of nearly a hundred ancient Egyptian mummies that lived in different historical eras beginning with the Middle Kingdom and ending times of reign of Rome, said in an article published in the journal Nature Communications.

«That DNA could survive up to our days in such conditions, always caused skepticism in the us. The hot climate of Egypt, a high level of humidity in many of the tombs and the chemicals that were used for mummification – all this contributes to the destruction of DNA and makes the chances of saving her scraps are minimal,» says Johannes Krause (Johannes Krause), known paleogenetic from the University of tübingen (Germany).

Over the past ten years, scientists have made many breakthroughs in the recovery of DNA of long-dead people «raising» the genomes of the Neanderthals, the denisovans, CRO-magnon piece together their genetic code in their bones. In addition, this is leading geneticists and archaeologists, including myself Krause, restored and studied the DNA of many famous mummies – Alpine «ice man» of ETCI, and the world’s oldest mummies from the chinchorro culture in Chile.

The DNA of these mummies have helped scientists to uncover the many secrets of the migrations of peoples in Europe and in America, to understand how ill and died from what people in the distant past, and whether there are their descendants today. For example, the immediate descendants of ETCI live today on Sardines, and the mummy girl Inca has helped scientists to uncover unknown to the anthropologists of the Indian population in Peru almost completely destroyed by the conquistadors during the conquest of South America.

For this reason, Krause and his colleagues had to spend a tremendous amount of time searching for mummies, untouched by the hands of archaeologists and at the same time preserving the fragments of DNA in sufficient quantity to ensure that the genome can be completely restored.

Eternity Egypt

Like the mummy, scientists were able to find in the town of Abusir El Melek on the banks of the Nile in Central Egypt. It was the center of pilgrimage and worship of Osiris, God of fertility and the Nile, and a popular place for the burial of nobles and officials from Memphis and other major cities of Ancient Egypt, and also less rich people.

Here were buried more than 150 mummies in the time of Middle Kingdom and later historical periods. The genomes of 90 of them were able to read only partially, and only three of the mummies contained a sufficient quantity of genetic material for full recovery of DNA.

This, according to Krause, was enough to see how varied the population of Ancient Egypt over time, how it was influenced by the various events of the period, such as the invasion of «sea peoples» in the era of Ramses II, and ancient Romans and Macedonians in antiquity.

In total, as on that point sets of small mutations in the DNA of the mummies, in Central Egypt at that time there were about 300 thousand people, whose number is almost unchanged over this period, indicating its high stability.

As noted by Krause and his colleagues, the ancient Egyptians had relatives to the people living in those times the territory of the Levant, and was close to the first inhabitants of Europe and the Anatolian Peninsula. Interestingly, the invading aliens are actually not affected the life of the ancient Egyptians and did not lead to large-scale genetic rearrangements until the time of the fall of the Roman Empire.

Their modern descendants, the Egyptians-the Copts, are very different in this respect from their ancestors in their DNA is present in 8% of genes inherited from populations of people from South Africa. Why it happened, scientists do not yet know, however, they believe that the migration processes intensified after the fall of the ancient empires and people of the Central regions of Africa began to move North, settling in the fertile Nile valley and its Delta.

One of the reasons for these migrations, as scientists assume, could be the slave trade, which reached its peak during the Arab and Ottoman rule, however, inconclusive, as the conclude of genetics, it can be done only after analyzing the DNA of people who lived at that time in Egypt.

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