Scientists Finally Break the Mummy DNA Code

Egypt is located at the crossroads of the ancient world, a bridge between the cultures and kingdoms of Northern Africa, the Middle East, the Near East and Europe. The ability to mine ancient genetic data will add new depth to our understanding of how foreign invasions and large-scale migrations influenced the genetic makeup of modern Egyptians. This new study, constrained to less than 100 mummies in one central Egyptian tomb, is just the beginning.

“There are going to be thousands of mummies available for genetic research,” said Schuenemann.

Interestingly, the researchers had the most success extracting DNA from the teeth of the mummies, not the soft tissue, which turns out to contain very little viable DNA. After DNA samples were isolated, Scheunemann and her colleagues had to fish out the ancient human DNA from the DNA of “thousands of different organisms” that lived on and in the mummy teeth — plants, bacteria, fungi.

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