Scientists crack ancient iceman's DNA code
New research on a clump of hair found buried deep in the ice of Greenland has revealed a snapshot of what ancient man looked like.
To date DNA sequencing has used modern samples from living people, but this is the first time material from an extinct culture has been used.
For the first time scientists have sequenced the entire genome of an ancient man by using a sample of hair that was extracted from the permafrost.
It has revealed some of ancient man's physical traits, including his tendency for baldness.
The findings, published in the latest issue of Nature, have also challenged conventional wisdom on migration patterns of humans 5,000 years ago.
Professor David Lambert, an expert on evolutionary biology at Queensland's Griffith University, says he has analysed the research into the 4,000 year old man, who has been named as Inuk.
"He was very dark, he had very dark hair, he had a tendency for baldness and dark-coloured skin," he said.
"They even were able to pinpoint what kind of wax he had in his ears.
"This is historic, truly historic because for the very first time we're getting a snapshot of what our ancestors looked like. And I think that's pretty remarkable."
Out of Asia
Ear wax might not be that significant, but other physical characteristics show where Inuk and his ancestors came from.
"We know that he had what are called shovel teeth - these are teeth that have a depression in the inside, the back side of the teeth," Professor Lambert said.
"To a large degree he would have looked very similar to some of the eastern Asiatic people of today - from the northern parts of [the east coast of] Asia."
Professor Lambert says there is now evidence of an Asian invasion of the Americas, spreading rapidly through Canada and onto Greenland.
"The results do challenge what we know about these first indigenous people of Greenland because most of the ideas to date had been that the people of Greenland were derived from indigenous people of North America," he said.
"In fact what this work shows rather clearly is that they were derived from people of East Asia."
The team of international scientists was only able to recover the DNA information because the hair sample had been so well preserved in deep layers of ice over thousands of years.
Their discovery means other material like bones might now be analysed to find out more about extinct cultures.
"We know that there was at least one earlier invasion of North America from Asia, but this is evidence for a later one and I think that probably what will happen is we'll find more and more evidence for invasions of North America," Professor Lambert said.
"Perhaps too what this means is, it might have implications for some of the great invasions of continents, like Australia for example, and we might find in the future that those kind of invasions are more complex than what we thought."
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Source >> http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2010 ... 816170.htm