Category Archives: Ancient DNA

Face of Ordinary Poor Man from 13th Century Cambridge Reconstructed

The growth of forensic science and art has allowed a look into the faces of kings, from the famous Shakespearean villain Richard III, to the Scottish hero Robert the Bruce, to the famed boy-pharaoh Tutankhamun.
But what about the rabble? What about the commoners buried in small plots without pomp, and forgotten not long after they left this mortal coil?
A new project in Cambridge called “After the Plague” aims to understand the plight of the common man and woman in and around the time the Black Death hit England in 1348.

Ancient Skulls Found in China Could Belong to an Unknown Human Species

Scientists have discovered two partial human skulls in central China that they say could potentially belong to an unknown archaic human species.
The skulls are 105,000 to 125,000 years old, and they contain a unique mix of modern human and Neanderthal features. Excitingly, they could be the key to filling in some of the missing pieces of the human family tree in east Asia.

Ancient DNA Yields Unprecedented Insights into Mysterious Chaco Civilization

pueblo-bonitoThe results suggest that a maternal “dynasty” ruled the society’s greatest mansion for more than 300 years, but concerns over research ethics cast a shadow on the technical achievement.

Cutting-edge Technology Solves Ancient Scientific Puzzles

ancient-gravesiteHere’s a riddle for you: What does an ancient tooth unearthed in Troy, a bald eagle feather, and a scrap of metal from a WWII fighter plane all have in common?

Dust To Dust: Scientists Find DNA Of Human Ancestors In Cave Floor Dirt

max-planc-researchersImagine being able to collect the DNA of a human ancestor who’s been dead for tens of thousands of years from the dirt on the floor of a cave. Sounds fantastic, but scientists in Germany think they may be able to do just that. If they’re successful, it could open a new door into understanding the extinct relatives of humans.

Secrets of world’s oldest mummies are revealed by DNA tests, scans

chinchorro-mummySANTIAGO – The world’s oldest mummies have just had an unusual check-up.
More than 7,000 years after they were embalmed by the Chinchorro people, an ancient civilization in modern-day Chile and Peru, 15 mummies were taken to a Santiago clinic last week to undergo DNA analysis and computerized tomography scans.

Ancient DNA reveals genetic legacy of pandemics in the Americas

dna-profile-bluePrehistoric America was not a disease-free utopia. Tuberculosis, treponemal disease, Chagas disease, and many other pathogens were endemic to populations in different regions of the continent. But the “Columbian Exchange” beginning in 1492 introduced new pathogens to American populations, including smallpox, measles, influenza, and yellow fever. This introduction had devastating consequences for tribes. In some places, death from infectious disease resulted in the depopulation of entire regions, leading to the collapse of social, economic, and political institutions, and the loss of many traditional cultural practices and ways of life.

Two Greek sites in top-10 archaeological discoveries for 2016

the_antikythera_mechanismTwo archaeological findings in Greece, the Antikythera Man and the mass grave at Pheleron Delta were included in the top 10 discoveries for 2016 by “Archaeology” magazine. The publication is published by the Archaeological Institute of America and its editors announced their picks for the most compelling finds of the year expiring in two weeks. Following is the complete list:

A Mummy’s DNA May Help Solve The Mystery Of The Origins Of Smallpox

17th-century-lithuanian-mummyNPR- The surprise find of smallpox DNA in a child mummy from the 17th century could help scientists start to trace the mysterious history of this notorious virus.
Smallpox currently only exists in secure freezers, after a global vaccination campaign eradicated the virus in the late 1970s. But much about this killer remains unknown, including its origins.

Black death ‘plague pit’ discovered at 14th-century monastery hospital

black-deathThornton Abbey, Lincolnshire- 48 skeletons have been discovered in what researchers are calling a ‘Plague Pit.’ 27 of these were from children, say the researchers. This represents an extremely rare discovery, suggesting that the community was overwhelmed by the Black Death.

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.