DNA from Ancient Egyptian mummies has poured cold water on a theory that the people came from Africa or the desert.
Scientists have extracted and analysed DNA from mummies and found that the ancient Egyptians are actually more genetically similar to people living today in the Near East — countries like Israel, Lebanon, and Syria — than modern-day Egyptians.
It had been thought that modern-day Egyptians were similar to their ancient counterparts, but an investigation of the DNA of 151 mummies dated from 1388 BCE to 426 CE in a site about 100 kilometres south of Cairo show otherwise.
The findings are weakened by the fact that most of the mummies had incomplete DNA, and only three retained a completely intact genome. These three mummies are the ones the scientists focused on.
The team then compared the ancient mummy DNA to the DNA of both ancient and modern people in the same region. It turns out that, on a genetic level, the ancient Egyptians aren’t so different from modern people living in the Near East.
The mummies did not have any DNA from sub-Saharan Africa, whereas about 20 percent of today’s Egyptians have sub-Saharan genes. Study lead author Johannes Krause told Science that the modern-day variation might be because either the spread of Islam or more trade increased contact between the different parts of Africa.
The findings are interesting, but even more promising is the fact that the method could pave the way for even more genetic studies of mummies so we can understand more details about these ancient people.