A team of scientists studied ancient Egyptian mummies and managed to find and collect robust genetic data from them. Based on this, the researchers concluded that the analyzed Ancient Egyptian society had quite a surprising ancestry.
Most modern-day Egyptians have sub-Saharan genes. In contrast, their ancient relatives were more closely related to people living in the Near East, even present-day ones.
Ancient Egyptian Mummies Still Have More New Information Left to Offer
The study team is formed by researchers from the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History and the University of Tuebingen. Led by Johannes Krause, they published their research results in the Nature Communications.
The team based its study on an analysis of 151 Egyptian mummies discovered in Abusir el-Meleq. This ancient settlement is situated on the Nile floodplain, some 100 km to the south of Cairo. Radiocarbon dating of the ancient human remains showed that their lives spanned well over 1,300 years. They were dated to have lived in between around 1388 BCE to 426 CE.
Three of the analyzed mummies still presented an entirely intact genome. Ninety others retained incomplete DNA. The others still presented genetic material in their teeth and bones. Still, the scientists focused specifically on the three complete genome-yielding ancient Egyptian mummies.
After extracting the necessary genetic information, the researchers then compared it to the DNA of people living in the area nowadays. This returned quite a surprise as it came with a different ancestry than expected.
The team noted that this ancient Egyptian population had more ‘in common’ with people living in the Near east. They also presented no sub-Saharan genetic traces. Modern-day Egyptians present an estimated 20 percent of sub-Saharan Africa genes.
Johannes Krause states that the current genetic variation could be explained, among others, by the increased contact and trading in between the different parts of the African continent.
The research team points out the need for more genetic studies on the ancient human remains discovered in Africa.
They also state that “The study thus shows that Egyptian mummies can be a reliable source of ancient DNA, and can greatly contribute to a more accurate and refined understanding of Egypt’s population history.”
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