In DepthAnthropology

Egyptian mummy DNA, at last

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Science  02 Jun 2017:
Vol. 356, Issue 6341, pp. 894
DOI: 10.1126/science.356.6341.894

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Summary

Ancient Egyptian mummies preserve many details of the deceased: facial features, signs of illness, even tattoos. But not, it seemed, DNA. After trying repeatedly to extract it, many scientists were convinced that the hot desert climate and, perhaps, the chemicals used in mummification destroyed any genetic material long ago. Now, a team of ancient DNA specialists has successfully sequenced genomes from 90 ancient Egyptian mummies. The game-changing results give scientists their first insight into the genetics of ordinary ancient Egyptians. The researchers discovered that ancient Egyptians closely resembled ancient and modern Near Eastern populations, especially those in the Levant, and had almost no DNA from sub-Saharan Africa. What's more, the genetics of the mummies remained remarkably consistent even as different powers—including Nubians, Greeks, and Romans—conquered the empire.