Although many of the first extractions of ancient DNA were from mummified remains, scientists raised doubts as to whether genetic data, especially so-called nuclear genome data, from mummies would ever be reliable, even if it could be recovered. In particular, the hot Egyptian climate, high humidity levels in tombs and chemicals used in mummification can cause DNA to degrade making long-term survival unlikely.
Now, an international team led by researchers at the University of Tübingen and the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History in Jena, Germany, has recovered and analysed ancient DNA from Egyptian mummies dating from approximately 1400 BCE to 400 CE, including the first genome-wide nuclear data from three individuals. Nuclear data is significant because, at its most simple, it is inherited from all ancestors, while mitochondrial DNA stems from the maternal line only.
Story: Victoria Woollaston, Wired | Photo: Aegyptisches Museum/Papyrussammlung/SMB/Sandra Steiss