DNA could unlock Minoan secrets


DNA might unlock clues to Cretan civilisation

Boffins from the University of Huddersfield have taken DNA from a Late Bronze Age site which they think could alter the dating of the  civilisation.

Dr Ceiridwen Edwards and PhD student George Foody took bone samples and teeth from over 110 of the more than 600 skeletons discovered in the Necropolis, a rock-hewn burial site from the Late Minoan period dating to more than 4,000 years ago.

They also took DNA swabs from more than 100 contemporary Cretans to analyse links to the Minoan period.

When the ancient DNA samples are compared with those of modern Cretans, there is the potential to find solutions to many issues surrounding the ancient migration of people and culture to an island where the Bronze Age Minoans and their successors the Mycenaeans laid foundations for later European civilisation and culture.

The Minoans are important because they were one of Europe’s earliest civilisations and it has been a major question how much influence they were on the Mycenaeans. Some of their story ended up in many of the Greek myths.

DNA analysis might establish family relationships between the occupants of the tombs, and it might be possible to establish the presence of a high-status dynasty.

During her research career, Dr Edwards has studied DNA of archaeological samples from many species, including giant Irish deer, domestic horse, wild boar, domestic pig, brown bear, and red deer, dating from 1,000 to 40,000 years ago. Her speciality has been the study of aurochs, the ancestors of domestic cattle, as well as ancient cattle breeds.

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