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An international team of scientists led by researchers from the University of Tübingen and the Max Planck Institute, recovered and successfully analyzed the oldest DNA from Egyptian mummies dating from around 1400 BC. and 400Among them, they found the nuclear DNA of three individuals, establishing the ancient Egyptian mummies as a reliable source of genetic material to study the ancient past.
This study, published in Nature Communications, shows that modern Egyptians share more ancestry with sub-Saharan Africans than ancient Egyptianswhile these turned out to be more closely related to the ancient peoples of the Near East.
Egypt is a promising place for the study of ancient populations because of its rich and well-documented history, its location, and the large number of interactions with surrounding populations in Africa, Asia, and Europe. Recent advances in the study of ancient DNA present an interesting opportunity to be able to analyze the history of Egypt through genetic data however, these are very rare due to methodological and contamination issues.
Although some of the earliest ancient DNA extractions were from mummified remains, scientists have raised questions about whether the genetic data obtained, especially the data from the nuclear genome of the mummies, would be reliable, even if it could be recovered.
"Preservation of DNA potential has to be viewed with skepticism," confirms Johannes Krause, director of the Max Planck Institute and lead author of the study.
'Egypt's hot climate, high humidity levels in many tombs, and some of the chemicals used in mummification techniques all contribute to DNA degradation and this is believed to lead to the long-term survival of DNA in mummies very unlikely Egyptians. '
The ability of the authors of this study to extract nuclear DNA from mummies and to demonstrate its reliability using robust authentication methods, is a breakthrough that opens the door to further studies of mummified remains.
For this study, researchers from the Universities of Tübingen and Cambridge, the Max Planck Institute, the Polish Academy of Sciences and the Berlin Society for Anthropology, Ethnology and Prehistory worked together, analyzing genetic differentiation and continuity in the population during a time interval of between a year and a half millennium, comparing it in turn with modern populations.
For it they took samples of 151 mummified individuals from the archaeological site of Abusir el-Meleq, along the River Nile, from the Middle Period of Egypt, from two anthropological collections housed and treated at the University of Tübingen and the Felix von Luschan Skull Collection, from the Staatliche Museen in Berlin.
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Total the authors recovered mitochondrial genomes from 90 individuals and the whole genome data set of three of them, using them to test the above hypotheses drawn from archaeological and historical data, in addition to modern DNA studies.
"We were particularly interested in the study of the changes and continuities in the genetic makeup of the ancient inhabitants of Abusir el-Meleq," explained Alexander Peltzer, one of the lead authors of the study and from the University of Tübingen.
The team sought to determine whether the ancient populations investigated were affected at the genetic level through foreign conquest and domination during the period under study, comparing these results with modern Egyptian populations.
"We wanted to test whether the conquest of Alexander the Great and other foreign powers has left a genetic imprint on the ancient Egyptian population," Verena Schuenemann explained.
The close relationship between the ancient Egyptians and the populations of the Near East.
The study found that the ancient Egyptians were most closely related to the ancient populations of the Levant and also with Neolithic populations of the Anatolian peninsula and Europe.
"The genetics of the Abusir el-Meleq community did not undergo any major changes during the 1,300-year span we have studied, suggesting that the population was genetically little affected by foreign conquest," analyzed Wolfgang Haak of the Institute. Max Planck.
The data shows that modern Egyptians share approximately 8% more ancestry (at the nuclear level) with the populations of sub-Saharan Africa than with ancient Egyptians. "This suggests that the increase in sub-Saharan gene flow in Egypt occurred in the last 2,000 years," explained Stephan Schiffels of the Max Planck Institute.
The possible causes This could have been increased mobility up the Nile River, increased long-distance trade between Sub-Saharan Africa and Egypt, and the slave trade across the Sahara, which began roughly 1,300 years ago.
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