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Ancient Minoans genetically related to Europeans

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DNA analysis performed on a 4,000-year-old skeleton suggests that the Minoan civilization was founded by the descendants of the first European populations and not from Egyptians as a previous theory proposed.

To test that idea, the research team analyzed DNA from ancient Minoan skeletons that were sealed in a cave in Crete’s Lassithi Plateau between 3,700 and 4,400 years ago. They then compared the skeletal mitochondrial DNA, which is stored in the energy powerhouses of cells and passed on through the maternal line, with that found in a sample of 135 modern and ancient populations from around Europe and Africa.

The researchers found that the Minoan skeletons were genetically very similar to modern-day Europeans — and especially close to modern-day Cretans, particularly those from the Lassithi Plateau. They were also genetically similar to Neolithic Europeans, but distinct from Egyptian or Libyan populations.

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Story: Tia Ghose, LiveScience | Photo: Andrei Nekrassov, Shutterstock

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