Herodotus Returns

Ancient Greenlander DNA sequenced
February 15, 2010, 9:59 am
Filed under: DNA | Tags: ,

Scientists have conducted DNA sequencing on four hairs from a Greenlander who died about 4,000 years ago. He lived among the Saqqaq, the first people who existed in southern Greenland, from about 2500 to 800 BC. Surprisingly, the man appears to have not been related to modern Greenlanders, rather to have migrated there from Siberia. It appears this type of genomic survey will become increasingly prevalent in the field of archaeology. Last month, scientists performed a similar study on a 30,000-year-old hunter-gatherer skeleton.

“This provides evidence for a migration from Siberia into the New World some 5,500 years ago, independent of that giving rise to the modern Native Americans and Inuit,” the researchers wrote in Thursday’s issue of the journal Nature.

Not only can the findings help transform the study of archeology, but they can help answer questions about the origins of modern populations and disease, they said.

“Such studies have the potential to reconstruct not only our genetic and geographical origins, but also what our ancestors looked like,” David Lambert and Leon Huynen of Griffith University in Queensland, Australia, wrote in a commentary.

Check out the rest of the report here.


DNA Analysis of 30,000-year-old Hunter-Gatherer
January 1, 2010, 10:31 pm
Filed under: DNA, Hunter-Gatherer | Tags: ,

Scientists analyze DNA of 30,000-year-old Hunter-Gatherer in shed light on whether the first humans living in Europe are directly related to modern populations.

The DNA analysed in this study comes from a male aged 20-25 who was deliberately buried in an oval pit some 30,000 years ago.

Known as the Markina Gora skeleton, it was found lying in a crouched position with fists reaching upwards and a face orientated down towards the dirt. The bones were covered in a pigment called red ochre, thought to have been used in prehistoric funeral rites.

The type of DNA extracted and analysed is that stored in mitochondria – the “powerhouses” of cells. This mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) is passed down from a mother to her offspring, providing a unique record of maternal inheritance.

Using technology pioneered in the study of DNA from Neanderthal bones, they were able to distinguish between ancient genetic material from the Kostenki male and contamination from modern people who handled the bones, or whose DNA reached the remains by some other means.

Future studies like the one in Current Biology could help shed light on whether the humans living in Europe 30,000 years ago are the direct ancestors of modern populations or whether they were replaced by immigrants who introduced farming to the continent several thousand years ago.

More on the study here.