Category Archives: Ancient DNA

Your Neanderthal DNA might actually be doing you some good

neanderthals3Most human genomes harbor small fragments of Neanderthal DNA, the legacy of prehistoric hanky-panky between our ancestors and their hominid cousins.
For the most part, that inheritance has been detrimental. Research suggests that as much as 10 percent of the human genome was inherited from archaic hominids other than Homo sapiens, but the majority of that material was weeded out by tens of thousands of years of natural selection. The DNA that does remain has been blamed for increasing risk of depression, Type 2 diabetes, Crohn’s disease, lupus, allergies, addiction and more.

A Skeleton Found in a Castle Could Be the Key to Cracking a 17th-Century Cold Case

george-iToday, any scandal by a member of the United Kingdom’s royal family will likely end up plastered on the front page of gossip magazines. But for centuries, intrigue among blue bloods carried much deadlier consequences. Now, as Alison Smale reports for The New York Times, a skeleton recently unearthed in a German castle could shed light on a 17th-century cold case linked to a then-future monarch.

First people on Vanuatu and Tonga came from Taiwan

vanuatu-skullMajor study of ancient DNA from skeletons found on the Pacific Islands uncovers the populations’ genetic pre-history. The first inhabitants of Vanuatu and Tonga came from East Asia and not from other parts of the Pacific as previously thought, a new DNA study has shown.

New DNA Analysis Shows Aboriginal Australians Are the World’s Oldest Society

aboriginal-kangaSmithsonian- For centuries, Aboriginal Australians have said they belonged to the oldest sustained civilization on the face of the Earth, citing their culture and history of oral storytelling that stretches back tens of thousands of years. Now, one of the most extensive analyses of Indigenous Australian DNA to date suggests that they’ve been right all along.

Human Skeleton Found on Famed Antikythera Shipwreck

underwaterHannes Schroeder snaps on two pairs of blue latex gloves, then wipes his hands with a solution of bleach. In front of him is a large Tupperware box full of plastic bags that each contain sea water and a piece of red-stained bone. He lifts one out and inspects its contents as several archaeologists hover behind, waiting for his verdict. They’re hoping he can pull off a feat never attempted before—DNA analysis on someone who has been under the sea for 2,000 years.

Someone stole thousands of vials containing the DNA of Italians with very long lifespans

dna-collection3Thousands of vials containing the DNA of Italians with very long lifespans have gone missing.
This DNA was collected years ago as part of widespread research interest in the island of Sardinia, whose residents are some of the world’s longest living people. On average, 21 out of every 10,000 residents in one area of Sardinia live to age 100. In comparison, only four out of 10,000 Americans get to celebrate that birthday.

DNA confirms cause of 1665 London’s Great Plague

plagueIt wiped out nearly a quarter of London’s population and was one of the triggers for the scientific renaissance that swept England in the 17th Century.
Now the bacteria that caused the Great Plague of London between 1665 and 1666 has been definitively identified as the bug that causes bubonic plague – Yersinia pestis.
Archaeologists used DNA testing on skeletons found in a mass grave in a churchyard uncovered during the construction of the new Crossrail Elizabeth that will run through the city’s Liverpool Street Station.

Harvard University experts analyze DNA of Peru’s ancient female ruler

CaoLima, Aug. 26. Archaeologist Regulo Franco Jordan announced that Harvard University experts have started to analyze the DNA of Lady of Cao, the first female ruler of pre-Columbian Peru.

DNA traces origins of Iceman’s ragtag wardrobe

Otzi's duds…When Oetzi was discovered in 1991, famously well preserved in the ice of the Italian Alps, this type of ancient DNA analysis was impossible.
“25 years ago, the study of ancient DNA was in its infancy,” Mr O’Sullivan told BBC News. “It would not have been possible to infer, to the same extent, the species of origin or how domesticated the leathers were…”

Richard III’s missing teeth in skull may prove he DIDN’T kill Tower of London princes

lost BoysInnocent: New evidence blows a major hole in the story of Richard III and the princes in the Tower
It is one of the most dramatic and controversial tales in British history – how two young princes were murdered by their dastardly uncle so he could claim the throne for himself.

Blood of King Albert I identified after 80 years

Tree Leaves RelicThe death of King Albert I of Belgium in 1934 — officially a climbing accident — still fuels speculation. Forensic geneticist Maarten Larmuseau and his colleagues at KU Leuven (University of Leuven, Belgium), have now compared DNA from blood found on the scene in 1934 to that of two distant relatives. Their analysis confirms that the blood really is that of Albert I. This conclusion is at odds with several conspiracy theories about the king’s death.

First farmers had diverse origins, DNA shows

Zagros MountainsResearchers compared the genomes of ancient Neolithic skeletons from across the Middle East, where farming began.
The results shed light on a debate over whether farming spread out from a single source in the region, or whether multiple farmer groups spread their technology across Eurasia.

Russian scientists dissect ancient organs from 800-year-old mummy

SalekhardThe child, aged around six or seven, was found close to the town of Salekhard. Researchers took samples of tissue and probed the boy’s internal organs.
It is hoped these will reveal how people lived at the time, possibly their diet. Experts have started establishing the boy’s DNA and hunting for descendants

Today’s technology to uncover yesterday’s secrets at an early settler’s burial ground at Milton

Milton Burial GroundThe group, the Tokomairiro Project 60 research team, is undergoing a public submission process to enable the digging-up of 20-30 skeletons from St John’s Burial Ground, amid farmland on Milton’s Back Rd.

Humanity plagued by single strain of bacteria

Yersinia PestisHistorians and scientists alike have long wondered whether the various disease pandemics that have plagued humanity since the sixth century shared a common cause.
Ancient DNA samples and historical climate patterns all pointed to the theory that a single, super-resilient germ managed to survive through the ages. But the final genetic piece in the puzzle was missing – until now.