الأربعاء، 7 أكتوبر 2009

Genetic Archaeology

Genetic Archaeology

In the last 50 years archaeologists have been looking through old relics to try to tell the story of different peoples, now they are starting to use the people themselves. They are using mummified corpses and soft tissue from dead people and animals from places like Egypt. The tool they use from them is DNA (Deoxyribonucleic acid), the scientist extract DNA molecules from soft preserved tissue and then using a PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction) they duplicate the DNA up to several million times which then yields plenty for analysis. This was the first breakthrough, in 1989 research groups from England, Japan; France successfully removed DNA from preserved teeth, bones and hard tissue.

These findings can ultimately help in determining the genealogy of the Egyptian Kings and Queens because it is now possible to extract some of the major components of the makeup of these people. They can tell from the DNA of the Kings and Queens the possible lineage’s they possess. This means that maybe they can find out if one of these people was related to another and how they were. Because there was allot of intermarrying going on between brothers and sisters and some of the offspring will have the same DNA sequence which will then tell scientists who some of the unknown mummies are that were found in tombs along with others.

This will not only be useful in determining the lineage’s among kings and queens but it will also tell us about the commoners of the time, such as those that were found in a cemetery at Fag el Gamous in Fayum. They found multiple burials in a single grave, often two adults and one or more children or several children buried with a single adult. Up until now we would not know what these people died from but now with this new way of getting into their past it is possible to gage what type of diseases were present in their era and if they were possibly killed by them.

So far from these people they have determined that tuberculosis was present in this population, and it is likely that diseases such as cholera and malaria were present in that area. They were able to find this because it was possible to recover DNA fragments from pathogenic bacteria that were present in the remaining tissue.

The questions about Egypt are fascinating and with help from new advances in technology and science and medicine it will be possible to answer some of them and hopefully to unlock some of their secrets.

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