Friday, February 12, 2010

Ancient Greenlandic Genome Decoded

As one might expect, this has been fairly big news in Denmark, and it has now also been reported in the NY Times

Ancient Man in Greenland Has Genome Decoded

The genome of a man who lived on the western coast of Greenland some 4,000 years ago has been decoded, thanks to the surprisingly good preservation of DNA in a swatch of his hair so thick it was originally thought to be from a bear.

This is the first time the whole genome of an ancient human has been analyzed, and it joins the list of just eight whole genomes of living people that have been decoded so far. It also sheds new light on the settlement of North America by showing there was a hitherto unsuspected migration of people across the continent, from Siberia to Greenland, some 5,500 years ago.


The genome came from some hair which had been in a bag at the Danish National Museum since 1986. The hair were found in an ancient garbage heap.

The study was published in Nature and can be found here: Ancient human genome sequence of an extinct Palaeo-Eskimo

As the NY Times mentions, the research has now given new insight into the migration patterns of the ancient humans, demonstrating some unexpected paths.

This is probably something we'll continue to see when more and more ancient genomes are decoded, expanding our knowledge in this area.

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