First successful extraction of ancient DNA from a southern African mummy

March 16, 2016, Wits University

Researchers have presented one of the first computerised tomography (CT) scans of a mummified individual from southern Africa, and also completed the first successful aDNA (ancient DNA) extraction from such remains. The mummy is estimated to have been about 300 years old.

Professor Maryna Steyn, Head of the School of Anatomical Sciences, together with researchers from the University of Zurich (Switzerland), University of Pretoria and University of Botswana have published these findings in a paper, Radiological and genetic analysis of a Late Iron Age mummy from the Tuli Block, Botswana, in the South African Journal of Science.

Mummified are valuable sources of information on past populations. The researchers reported on the radiological and molecular findings of a partially mummified individual found in northern Botswana, in the Tuli block.

The researchers noted that this desiccated mummy from the Tuli region is the first to have been reported from this region. The remains were those of an older male adult of African origin. He was interred in a tightly flexed position and wrapped in an animal skin (and tied together with rope).

CT scanning revealed that none of the internal organs were preserved. Multiple post-mortem alterations are seen, but apart from some degenerative changes of the lower vertebral column, the axial skeleton has remained intact. The advanced osteophytosis (degenerative changes of the spine) suggests an older age than what was previously estimated. The cause of death could not be confirmed, but he did not shown any signs of injury.

The aDNA analysis confirms that the individual possibly had a Sotho-Tswana or Khoesan genetic relatedness, as could be expected from individuals from that region.

Explore further: CT scan taken of mummified remains in statue

Related Stories

CT scan taken of mummified remains in statue

February 24, 2015

(Phys.org) —A CT scan and endoscopy have revealed a master's mummy inside a Buddha statue. These were mummified remains of an ancient Buddhist monk who lived during the 11th or 12th century. Investigations revealed the ...

More than two dozen articles provide insights on mummies

May 22, 2015

In a special issue, The Anatomical Record ventures into the world of human mummified remains. In 26 articles, the anatomy of mummies is exquisitely detailed through cutting edge examination, while they are put in historical, ...

Recommended for you

A statistical look at the probability of future major wars

February 22, 2018

Aaron Clauset, an assistant professor and computer scientist at the University of Colorado, has taken a calculating look at the likelihood of a major war breaking out in the near future. In an article published on the open ...

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

baudrunner
1 / 5 (1) Mar 16, 2016
300 years isn't ancient. I'm not impressed.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.