A team of researchers led by the University of Tuebingen and the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History in Jena have achieved the impossible.
They recovered and analyzed ancient DNA from Egyptian mummies. And all the dates are from 1400 BC to 400 BC. It seems that the studies show a heritage on the sub-Saharan African line regarding the modern Egyptians. But the ancient Egyptians had much more in common with the ancient populations of the Near East.
Recent research in the field of genetics shows great opportunities to test ancient mummies, but genetic studies related to Egyptian mummies are rare, due to methodological problems and source contamination. Egypt’s hot climate, high humidity levels in many tombs, and certain chemicals used in mummification techniques can degrade DNA. Therefore, the long-term survival of valid DNA data is very rare.
For this study, teams of researchers from the University of Cambridge, the Polish Academy of Sciences, and the Berlin Society of Anthropology and Prehistory gathered. Data and population differences were analyzed in 1300 years. All results were compared with the DNA of modern populations.
In total, genetic data were recovered from 90 individuals and entire data sets from three others. They were able to use the collected data to test hypotheses drawn from archaeological and historical data and modern DNA studies.
The scientists wanted to know how the populations of these areas of conquest and other populations were affected. They wanted to test whether the conquest of Alexander the Great and other foreign powers left a genetic imprint on the ancient Egyptian populations.
Research has shown that today’s populations are 8% more related to sub-Saharan African populations than the ancient ones. This indicates that in the last 1500 years the African contribution to this area has increased. Possible factors would be the development of transport on the Nile, and the flourishing of trade and slave routes.