Published On: Sun, Jun 4th, 2017

Breakthrough Study found genome data from ancient Egyptian mummies

The study finds that ancient Egyptian mummies were most closely related to ancient people from the Near East, not to modern Egyptian


Modern Egyptians have more DNA share approximately 8% more ancestry with Sub-Saharan Africans than with ancient Egyptians mummies. While ancient Egyptians mummies were found to be most closely related to ancient people from the Near East, A breakthrough study found.

An international team of scientists successfully recovered and analyzed ancient DNA from 151 Egyptian mummies from the archaeological site of Abusir el-Meleq along the Nile River in Middle Egypt, dating from approximately 1400 BCE to 400 CE.

The international team looked at genetic differentiation over a 1,300 year and compared these results to modern populations.

Genetic studies of ancient Egyptian mummies are rare due to fear of contamination issues.

“The potential preservation of DNA has to regard with skepticism,” confirms Johannes Krause, from the Max Planck Institute in Jena and senior author of the study.


“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.”

The researcher’s ability to extract nuclear DNA from mummies and using authentication methods is a breakthrough that opens the door to further direct study of mummified remains.

In total, the authors recovered mitochondrial genomes from 90 individuals, and genome-wide datasets from three individuals.

They were able to use the data gathered to test previous hypotheses drawn from archaeological and historical data, and from studies of modern DNA.

“In particular, we were interested in looking at changes and continuities in the genetic makeup of the ancient inhabitants of Abusir el-Meleq,” said Alexander Peltzer, from the University of Tuebingen.

According to co-lead author Verena Schuenemann, of the University of Tuebingen, Germany, the study compared modern Egyptian were affected at the genetic level by foreign conquest and domination during the period in the study. “We wanted to test if the conquest of Alexander the Great and other foreign powers has left a genetic imprint on the ancient Egyptian population,” explains Schuenemann.

The study found that ancient Egyptians were most closely related to ancient people in the Levant, and were also closely related to Neolithic peoples from the Anatolian Peninsula and Europe.

“The genetics of the Abusir el-Meleq community did not undergo any major shifts during the 1,300-year, suggesting that the population remained relatively unaffected by foreign conquest,” says Wolfgang Haak, group leader at the Max Planck Institute in Jena.


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